New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials on Oct. 31 marked an East Side Access project milestone: test riding a Long Island Railroad train into Grand Central Terminal.
The new commuter rail route—bringing riders from destinations across Queens and Long Island directly to a new 350,000-square-foot East Side Access concourse in Grand Central—is set to officially open in December 2022. Grand Central currently serves MTA Metro-North Railroad and MTA New York City Transit. The new connection will double LIRR’s capacity into Manhattan, with up to 24 trains per hour, and cut travel time for Queens, N.Y., riders by 40 minutes per day, according to New York MTA.
The terminal will offer new entrances along Madison Avenue, as well as 25 retail storefronts, Wi-Fi and cell service, new art installations, and digital signage with real-time train information. Additionally, 17 182-foot-long escalators will connect commuters between the new concourse and mezzanine of the train terminal 140 feet below Park Avenue. The mezzanine leads to an upper train level that offers two platforms and four tracks, and a lower train level that similarly has two platforms and four tracks.
LIRR trains will enter the concourse from a newly activated tunnel that carries two tracks as it passes under the East River at 63rd Street. The two tracks then fan out to four and then eight on the two levels.
A new yard in Queens (pictured above) has been built to accommodate up to 300 railcars, and the Harold Interlocking has been updated, including the installation of 97 new track switches, 295 catenary poles used by Amtrak, five new steel railroad bridges, and 8,445 feet of retaining walls.
Overall, the project includes more than 40 miles of new track and nearly 13 miles of newly excavated tunnels, with 44 ventilation fans, 550 miles of cable and 975 security cameras, 15 overhead gantries that display train control signals, and 14 huts alongside the tracks containing signal system components, according to MTA.
“The East Side Access concourse is a model for modern transportation systems as we look to the post-pandemic future,” Gov. Hochul said. “As the first modern train terminal to be built in more than a half century, the East Side Access concourse will expand rail service, cut down on travel times into East Manhattan from Queens and Long Island, and reduce crowding.”
MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said: “This smart, transit-oriented development will help spur economic growth, provide better connections to Metro-North Railroad and lead to reduced automobile traffic and improved air quality in the region.”
“In 2022, not only will we provide more options for our riders to the East Side of Manhattan, but we will be giving them a state-of-the-art facility beneath the existing Grand Central Terminal,” LIRR President Phil Eng said.