east side access

Major Construction of East Side Access Completed; Grand Opening Set for Next Year

The East Side Access is one of the largest transportation infrastructure projects currently underway in the United States, according to the MTA.

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What to Know

  • All major construction of the East Side Access project is complete -- with the grand opening taking place next year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.
  • The project will provide direct LIRR service into a new concourse below Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan’s East Side.
  • The East Side Access is one of the largest transportation infrastructure projects currently underway in the United States, according to the MTA.

All major construction of the East Side Access project is complete -- with the grand opening taking place next year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

“We still have some systems work to do -- electrical systems, etc. -- but all the construction is complete," Cuomo said.

The East Side Access is one of the largest transportation infrastructure projects currently underway in the United States, according to the MTA. It is the largest new train terminal to be built in the United States since the 1950s and the first expansion of the LIRR in more than 100 years.

It will provide new, direct LIRR service into a new concourse below Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan’s East Side. The project encompasses work in multiple locations throughout Manhattan and Queens, and includes more than eight miles of tunneling. 

"East Side Access is one of North America's largest transportation projects--an audacious $11 billion idea changing the entire regional transportation system," Cuomo said. "Thanks to the hard work of the so many people, major construction on this transformative project is now complete and we are proud to announce East Side Access will open up next year--significantly cutting travel times and easing the commute into Manhattan for countless travelers."

The project is a component of the broader LIRR system expansion to help reduce passenger crowding, train congestion and car traffic, and to provide connections with regional transportation such as Metro North Railroad and New York City Transit subways. East Side Access will also reduce train and passenger congestion at New York Penn Station and neighboring subway stations.

The project will allow for the amount of LIRR trains into Manhattan to double with up to 24 trains per hour, while reducing the commute time by 40 minutes, according to Cuomo. He said that commuters will now have two stations to go into.

The new project will also for people to get to JFK from Grand Central in 40 minutes.

Additionally, it means commuters can come into the east side of Manhattan as opposed to going to Penn Station only to have to come all the way back to the east side. It also will open up a new train storage yard where 300 trains can be stored safely midday so they don’t have to block tracks with train storage, which is what has been happening.

"When you put the East Side Access together with what we are doing in the Long Island Rail Road second track and third track and new stations, it is redesigning the entire Long Island Rail Road experience, which is very important because Long Island is part of this economy and making that commute work is vitally important," Cuomo said.

The Manhattan concourse includes a 350,000-square-foot LIRR passenger concourse just below street level in the Grand Central area that will offer new entrances along Madison Avenue, 25 retail storefronts, WiFi and cell service, new art installations and digital signage with real time train information. The entrance in 347 Madison Avenue being built at 45th Street as part of the redevelopment of the MTA's former headquarters alone is expected to serve 10,000 people a day. 

Cuomo went on to say that the project will not only change Grand Central, but another important New York City transportation hub.

"It reduces dramatically the number of trains going into Penn, which first of all is a good thing because Grand Central is a much more pleasant experience than Penn, right now – until we do the new Penn," he said. "But reducing the number of trains going into Penn is very important because one of the major problems we have at Penn is we don’t have enough track capacity."

When completed, East Side Access will serve approximately 162,000 customers a day, according to the MTA.

When I came to the MTA in 2018 one of my first actions was to do an in-depth review of East Side Access," Janno Lieber, President of MTA Construction & Development, said in a statement. "We doubled down on this project - expressing faith in its fundamentals but overhauling the way we were pursuing it. In the past, when challenges were encountered, the answer was to push back the project completion date. We put an end to that and committed this project would be completed in 2022 as had been promised."

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