The much-anticipated arrival of Long Island Rail Road service into Grand Central is finally here — or at least, a modified version of it.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced late Monday that LIRR service its newest station, Grand Central Madison, will begin Wednesday. But don't expect to be able to just grab any train to the new stop.
The MTA said that for the first three weeks, LIRR will operate a limited shuttle service from Jamaica to Grand Central Terminal in order to help riders get familiar with the terminal, which had originally been slated to open in 2022. That debut got delayed because the safety system testing had not yet been completed, according to Jamie Torres-Springer, the president of MTA"s construction and development.
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The first train to Grand Central on Jan. 25 will start at Jamaica at 10:45 a.m., and is scheduled to arrive at the new terminal in the East Side of Manhattan at 11:07 a.m. There will be customer ambassadors on the Grand Central Madison concourse to greet the customers and to help provide information.
The LIRR will begin full service from Long Island to Grand Central after the first few weeks of limited shuttle service, the MTA said. The $11 billion project is a month overdue, and comes more than a decade after the originally conceived schedule.
When the regularly scheduled trains begin, they will operate from 6:15 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. Trains will run every 30 minutes in both directions during weekday midday periods and weekends, and once per hour during peak periods, according to the MTA press release.
Those looking to travel to Grand Central Madison can use Penn Station tickets, as both terminals will be in the same fare zone.
For more information on schedules and other details, click here.
The Federal Railroad Administration announced in November it had approved the project that will connect the LIRR to the new station near Grand Central Terminal, providing direct LIRR service into a new concourse below the established transit hub.
The MTA said that the $11 billion project will increase service 41 percent across LIRR, adding about 274 trains every weekday. The morning rush could go from 113 trains to 158, and the afternoon rush from 98 trains to 158. A new schedule for trains is expected to be released soon.
Back in April, NBC New York got an exclusive look inside the project terminal that will allow LIRR riders to have shorter commutes. Sitting hundreds of feet below Grand Central, the new terminal aims to bring 60 percent more traffic into Manhattan from Long Island at peak times, with the added bonus of cutting down on congestion at Penn Station at rush hour.
The construction is one of the largest transportation infrastructure projects undertaken in the United States in recent years, 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.
The project encompasses work in multiple locations throughout Manhattan and Queens, and includes more than eight miles of tunneling. It will bring all 11 branches of the LIRR through a new East River tunnel with a final destination below the current Grand Central. This new route will save commuters headed to the East Side precious time.
“This is the first time in 30 years we are taking a fresh look at [LIRR] schedules," LIRR President Cathy Rinaldi said.
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 new project will also for people to get to JFK from Grand Central in 40 minutes.
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.
When completed, East Side Access -- which has been in the works for years -- 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, previously said. "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."