Department of Transportation

Staff Study: The Viability of the Oak Point Link and Harlem River Yard Projects

Since the early 1970s, the Department of Transportation has been involved in efforts to improve the rail freight network in the New York City area. As part of these efforts, the Harlem River Yard was to be converted into an intermodal facility for moving truck trailers and ship containers on flat railroad cars, and the Oak Point Link was to be built to give freight trains better access to the Harlem River Yard. At the time of our review, about $280 million in public funds had either been spent or committed to these two projects, which were began in the early 1980s, suspended in 1987 and resumed in the early 1990s.
We evaluated the commercial viability of the two projects as well as the appropriateness of the Departments lease arrangements for the Harlem River Yard. We found that the two projects may not be as commercially viable as originally projected because fewer customers may use the Harlem River Yard than originally projected. In particular, newer double-stacked trains, which are the fastest growing and most economical mode of intermodal freight transportation, cannot access the downstate region because bridge clearances over the railroad tracks in and around the region are not high enough. We also question whether the 99-year lease of the Yard to a private developer is in the best interests of the State, as it appears that most of the economic benefits of the taxpayers investment in the two projects will benefit the private developer, who has assumed little or no risk in the projects. We raise several questions in relation to these two projects that need to be considered by Department officials and other policymakers.

For a complete copy of Report 95-D-43 click here.
For a copy of the 90-day response click here.