Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the completion of civil construction on East Side Access — the MTA's megaproject connecting the Long Island Rail Road to a new 350,000-square-foot passenger terminal under Grand Central Terminal. The project is the largest new train terminal to be built in the U.S. since the 1950s and the first expansion of the LIRR in more than 100 years. The new connection will double the LIRR's capacity into Manhattan with up to 24 trains per hour and cut travel time for Queens commuters by 40 minutes per day.
The Manhattan concourse includes a 350,000-square-foot LIRR passenger concourse just below street level that will offer new entrances along Madison Avenue, 25 retail storefronts, Wi-Fi 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.
Seventeen hi-rise escalators, 182 feet in length and the longest in the MTA system, will connect commuters between the new world class concourse and mezzanine of the train terminal 140 feet below Park Avenue. The mezzanine in turn leads to an upper train level that has two platforms and four tracks, and a lower train level that similarly has two platforms and four tracks.
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, then eight on the two levels.
In Queens, crews have built a new yard with space for up to 300 railcars and fully updated Harold Interlocking, the busiest passenger railroad intersection in North America, including the installation of 97 new track switches, 295 poles that carry overhead wires 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, nearly 13 miles of newly excavated tunnels, the project includes 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.
Originally conceived of in the 1960s, the project was developed in the 1990s with work beginning in earnest in Queens and Manhattan in 2006. East Side Access contractors have accomplished several engineering feats over the years, including blasting under Grand Central with limited impact to rail operations, mining under both Northern Boulevard and the elevated and underground subways in Queens and expanding the capacity of Harold Interlocking, the busiest train interlocking in North America.
In addition to relieving congestion at Penn Station, East Side Access will enhance New York's competitive standing in the global economy by providing a new link to business centers on the East Side and supporting job growth around Grand Central Terminal. When the project is complete, operational efficiency through Harold Interlocking will be greatly improved, benefiting travelers all along the Northeast Corridor. For the first time, reverse commuting from New York City to Long Island will be a realistic option for the region and will allow East Midtown and Metro-North Railroad customers to be able to connect to JFK Airport via the Long Island Rail Road and the Jamaica AirTrain.