Skip to main content
To homepage

East Side Access
MTA Long Island Rail Road
Grand Central Connection

Project Elements
Principal Components  | Facts And Figures  | Special Construction Techniques



New LIRR terminal beneath GCT. Serving LIRR and Metro North Railroad passengers, the new terminal will feature new entrances, a concourse, 8 tracks, 4 platforms and a mid-level mezzanine.

Manhattan tunnels. New tunnels will extend from the western end of the 63rd Street Tunnel, curve south under Park Avenue at 61st Street, pass below the 60th Street tunnels of the N and R subway, and stay deep below the 53rd Street E subway as they approach Grand Central Terminal.

63rd Street Tunnel. This existing 4-track tunnel, under the East River, has its two lower-level tracks reserved for the ESA project. The new ESA Queens and Manhattan tunnels will connect to the lower level of the 63rd Street Tunnel.

Queens tunnels. From the eastern end of the 63rd Street Tunnel, new tunnels in Queens will cross under Amtrak’s Sunnyside Yard and will rise to grade, meeting LIRR Main Line and Port Washington tracks and their connections at Harold Interlocking, the busiest railroad interchange in the country.

New Sunnyside Station. A new station at Queens Boulevard along the LIRR’s main line (into Penn Station) will serve commuters and act as a catalyst for economic development and growth in Long Island City.

back to top

Rendering of LIRR station platform at GCT.


Two caverns deep under GCT will house the LIRR 8-track station and connecting mezzanine. From the mezzanine, passengers can access the new LIRR concourse.


The largest construction project ever undertaken by the MTA, the ESA project includes:

  • A new 8-track terminal at GCT, the first major rail station in Manhattan in over 90 years and the largest mined underground terminal ever built in the U.S.

  • 2 deep, underground station caverns mined out of solid rock beneath GCT, each 85.5 feet high, 58.5 feet wide and 1,142 feet long.

  • Largest passenger rail terminal built in the U.S. since the late 1930s

  • 4 new entrances at GCT

  • 7 miles of tunnels along 3.5 route miles

  • 50,000 feet of new track in underground tunnels

  • 1.225 million cubic yards of excavated soil and rock

  • 250,000 cubic yards of poured concrete

  • 18,500 tons of reinforcing steel

  • Over 300,000 square feet of new passenger concourse and service space within GCT

back to top




Because of its largely underground location, in different types of subsurface conditions, the ESA project features some distinct construction techniques.

Preparing for tunnels in Queens. Accessing the bellmouth of the 63rd Street Tunnel requires preparation of a construction access shaft near Northern Boulevard as well as a large cut-and-cover excavation in the northern part of Sunnyside Yard. Work will then begin on the tunnels, LIRR track connections, and storage facilities in and under Sunnyside Yard.

Tunneling and construction strategies. Construction of the tunnels in Manhattan and Queens requires two different techniques:

  • In Manhattan, which sits on solid rock, the tunnels and most of the new LIRR terminal at Grand Central Terminal will be drilled with tunnel boring machines. The remaining cavern areas will be conventionally mined.

  • In Queens, where the subsurface conditions are mostly soft ground, the western portion of the tunnels will be built using cut-and-cover construction. Soft-ground boring machines will be used to tunnel under Sunnyside Yard to avoid disrupting operations. Work on the tunnels is slated to begin in 2004.

back to top



Typical tunnel boring machine.



Overview  |  From Long Island To Grand Central Terminal  |  Project Elements
Project Schedule  |  Milestones to Date  |  Construction Activities  |  In The News
Notable Quotes  |  Project Leadership  |  Public Outreach  |  Publications  |  Procurement



  • Google Translate