LIRR East End Gateway Opens

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The new East End Gateway entrance to the Long Island Rail Road Concourse at Penn Station opened to the public at 12:00 pm Dec. 31. Described by New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Construction & Development as “visually remarkable” and “high-capacity,” the entrance, located at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue gives Penn Station “a front door identity on Seventh Avenue for the first time” while providing direct access for customers headed from street level to the LIRR, as well as to NYC Transit’s 1-2-3 and A-C-E subway lines. Prior to the new entrance, customers had to wind their way through Penn Station’s Amtrak level to reach the LIRR Concourse.

With a glass and steel canopy that towers 40 feet over the streetscape and frames the spire of the Empire State Building, the new entrance “immediately provides easy orientation for customers emerging onto the street from the LIRR Concourse,” MTA said. The project includes three new state-of-the-art escalators and a staircase, effectively doubling vertical circulation capacity. The new escalators are equipped with smart features including heaters to ensure operation during cold weather and a “sleep mode” that will save energy and increase their longevity. 

The East End Gateway “comprises architectural features that elevate the Penn Station experience,” MTA said. The glass and steel canopy at the street level, manufactured and installed by MTA C&D’s partner Seele, allows natural light to filter down into the LIRR Concourse through 139 unique, double-curved glass panels. It affords views of the Empire State Building from the ascending escalators. The canopy’s A-frame towers contain 105 tons of steel. 

The underside of the canopy forms a compound curved panel, creating what architects refer to as a spandrel. MTA C&D commissioned a customized graphic installation for the structure—a 1,988-square-foot map of the New York metropolitan region. The exterior of the spandrel comprises 60 individual steel panels of varying curvature. The interior graphic contains more than 200 printed sections, which were applied directly to the steel panels at the project site. 

Under a design-build contract, MTA C&D and contractor Skanska expedited construction to take advantage of reduced passenger traffic flow in and around Penn Station during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project entailed close coordination with Vornado Realty Trust, which is performing major upgrades to adjacent buildings and constructing a pedestrian plaza next to the new entrance. 

MTA C&D completed the project on time, “despite the pandemic, using rigorous protocols and implementation of industry-leading safety practices,” MTA said. “Construction was completed without disruption to train service as crews worked to minimize impact to the overall passenger experience.”

The East End Gateway is Phase I of a larger Penn Station transformation project to improve the LIRR Concourse at Penn Station. Phase II began in Fall 2020 and will include higher ceilings, new wayfinding signage, and improved circulation for the hundreds of thousands of passengers who typically utilize Penn Station each day. Phase II will nearly double the width of the LIRR Concourse from 30 to 57 feet and raise the ceiling height to 18 feet. The widened corridors will allow for greater social distancing and a safer commuter experience. The project will improve lighting and air flow, add intuitive wayfinding, and enhance retail and dining options. Accessibility improvements will include a brand-new elevator from Seventh Avenue at 33rd Street down to the LIRR Concourse and rehabilitation of three existing elevators.

“The East End Gateway is the first of many steps to totally transform Penn Station,” said MTA C&D President Janno Lieber. “We’ve begun construction on the next phase, [and] we’re going to give New Yorkers a true 21st century transit hub.” 

“Public transportation is the lifeblood of great cities like New York, and I’m thrilled our customers now have a magnificent entrance that will remind them of our region’s strength, resilience and greatness,” said LIRR President Phillip Eng. “Not only visually stunning, this new entrance will provide much needed space for a brighter and more seamless access directly to our concourse. We strive to deliver the ultimate customer experience every single day, and we can’t wait for customers to enjoy this new part of the ongoing Penn Station revamp. [We’re] making big things happen for New York State and LIRR riders, now and for generations to come.” 

Opening of the East End Gateway came one day before the LIRR and Amtrak opened Moynihan Train Hall.

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