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East Side Access Facts

  • New eight Track LIRR Terminal at Grand Central Terminal
  • 22,000 square feet of new retail space
  • 47 escalators and 22 elevators
ESA project Map

East Side Access is one of the largest transportation infrastructure projects currently underway in the United States with a history that reaches back to the 1950’s when discussions were first held regarding regional transportation planning. The project encompasses work in multiple locations in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx and includes more than 11 miles of tunneling.

When completed, East Side Access will serve approximately 162,000 customers a day, providing a faster and easier commute from Long Island and Queens to the east side of Manhattan in a new 8-track terminal and concourse below Grand Central Terminal.

The budget and schedule for the East Side Access project is currently being evaluated. A range was presented to the MTA Capital Program Oversight Committee on January 27, 2014 which can be found on page 24 in this link.

Tunneling and Excavation: Using a variety of techniques and equipment, the dense bedrock beneath Manhattan and the mixed face soil under Queens has been excavated and cleared to make room for new train tunnels, platforms, service facilities and ventilation and access shafts. Techniques include tunnel boring, cut-and-cover, drilling and blasting.

Concourse and Terminal Construction: At Grand Central Terminal (GCT), a new passenger concourse will be constructed in space currently occupied by Metro-North’s Madison Avenue Yard. Eight tracks and four passenger platforms will be constructed, along with mezzanines and concourses, beneath Park Avenue below GCT’s existing lower level.

Track Realignment, Reconfiguration and Modernization: Along the length of the ESA alignment, new tracks are being built and old tracks are being replaced. In Harold Interlocking – one of the busiest train interlockings in the United States – work is being done to reconfigure and modernize the complex system of switches and tracks that serve four commuter rail systems and a cargo freight rail with the goal of smoothing and speeding travel through the area. Benefits from this work will impact rail passengers using the northeast corridor.

Power and Ventilation Facilities: At selected locations above and below ground, new facilities for ventilating the tunnels and concourse and powering trains are being constructed. In addition, numerous existing facilities are being modernized and improved.

Storage and Maintenance Facilities: In Queens and the Bronx, new facilities for storing and maintaining trains during the day are being constructed.

  • Faster, direct service for Long Island and Queens commuters to the East Side of Manhattan, saving up to 40 minutes off the daily commute.
  • Reduced passenger crowding on trains, subways and in Penn Station.
  • Reduced pedestrian crowding on streets.
  • Increased rail capacity and reduced train congestion in and out of Penn Station.
  • Connections with additional regional transportation options like Metro North Railroad and New York City Transit subways.
  • Reduced automobile traffic and improved air quality in the region.
  • Economic development and intelligent regional land use.

  • 2014 - April - Contract CS179 is awarded to complete the communication systems to be used by the public and employees of the future LIRR concourse.
  • 2014 - April - Second contract (CM006) awarded for the permanent structural concrete linings, interior structures and fit out for the caverns and tunnels north of Madison Yard.
  • 2014 - February - Contract CM013A successfully completed excavation and drill and blast operations at 55th Street.
  • 2013 - November - Contract CH057A is awarded to complete the Westbound Bypass and is the first major construction project to be funded by the Federal Railroad Administration High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program.
  • 2013 - September - Contract CM009 Manhattan Tunnels Excavation completed.
  • 2013 - August - First contract awarded for permanent structural concrete lining, interior structures, and fit-out for caverns and tunnels.
  • 2013 - August - Final pile removed at Northern Boulevard tunnel.
  • 2013 - August - The successful conclusion of the summer outage for construction of the track slab to accommodate work on the Westbound Bypass.
  • 2013 - June - Contract CM019 Manhattan Structures Part 1 completed.
  • 2012 - September - Manhattan and Queens tunnels connected.
  • 2012 - July - Queens tunnel boring work is completed. All ESA tunnel boring work ends.
  • 2012 - May -East Side Access completes third Queens tunnel ahead of schedule.
  • 2011 - January - Queens tunnel boring work begins.
  • 2010 - October - Manhattan tunnel boring work is completed.
  • 2008 - May - Preparation work begins in Madison Yard for the new LIRR Concourse.
  • 2007 - September - Manhattan tunnel boring work begins.
  • 2006 - July - Major construction begins in Manhattan.
  • 2006 - April - Major construction begins in Queens.
  • 2006 - December - FTA and MTA sign full funding grant agreement ($2.2 Billion).
  • 2006 - January - ”Amtrak Agreement” signed by LIRR, MTACC and Amtrak.
  • 2003 - July - MTA Capital Construction Company created.
  • 2002 - June - East Side Access enters final design phase.
  • 2001 - March - FTA Approves ESA Environmental Impact Statement.
  • 2000 - May - Draft Environment Impact Study is published, public review and comment period begins.
  • 1998 - September - FTA approves MTA request to enter preliminary engineering.
  • 1998 - Environmental and planning work begins.
  • 1998 - April - Major Investment Study completed, East Side Access project determined to be the best option.
  • 1992-1998 - Major investment and project feasibility studies of east side transportation alternatives are conducted.
  • 1969 - November - 63rd Street Tunnel construction begins.

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