NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City’s Staten Island was rejoined by freight rail with the rest of the nation for the first time in 16 years on Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, with an eight-mile link for hauling trash containers and other goods.
For years, the city has struggled to find long-term but green solutions for its trash, and Tuesday marked another step in its latest strategy — shipping garbage out-of-town in closed containers instead of trucks or barges.
Bloomberg said the reactivated line will give the city economy a $200 million a year boost and remove 100,000 trucks a year from Staten Island’s congested streets.
“If we think creatively and we work together, we can find ways to create jobs and new business without putting more traffic on our streets or polluting the underlying environment,” the Republican mayor told reporters.
Bloomberg, whom environmentalists slammed for not doing more to boost recycling in his first term, now plans to increase that effort, partly by using a new Brooklyn plant.
“At the moment we have no plans whatsoever to build incinerators,” he added.
The Staten Island Rail Road, which dates back to 1888, was shut in 1991 after the last shipper, Procter & Gamble, closed a facility, according to the city’s economic development agency.
The city bought the line in 1994, hoping that reviving it would help draw new industry. But some critics urged that the Arthur Kill Lift Bridge that connects the borough of Staten Island to New Jersey should instead be torn down, Peter Shudtz, general counsel for U.S. railroad CSX Corp., recalled at a news conference.
The Arthur Kill Lift is the world’s largest movable bridge.
New York City split the $75 million cost of the rail project with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which now is investing $530 million in the two states’ ports.
Staten Island’s $40 million trash transfer station has now been completed, and it will be followed by similar facilities in the city’s four other boroughs, officials said, adding they hope to break ground for them by 2009.
Staten Island’s new plant will compact 900 tons of trash a day and seal it into 12-foot by 20-foot containers, which then will be hauled to a South Carolina landfill.