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East Side Access Facts

  • New eight Track LIRR Terminal at Grand Central Terminal
  • 25,000 square feet of new retail space
  • 47 escalators and 22 elevators
ESA project Map

Project Overview

East Side Access provides new Long Island Rail Road service to the east side of Manhattan, supplementing existing service to Penn Station on Manhattan’s west side and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. The East Side Access megaproject 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 8 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 revised budget for the East Side Access project is $10.178 billion. Revenue service is forecasted for December 2022. Details as presented to the MTA Capital Program Oversight Committee on June 23, 2014 can be found on page 34 in this link.

Project Elements

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 are being 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.

Project Benefits

  • 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.

East Side Access Timeline and Milestones

1968

  • First MTA Chairman William Ronan presents the MTA’s first masterplan to Governor Rockefeller, which included the first plan for LIRR access to the East Side of Manhattan, albeit in a terminal on Third Avenue.

1969

  • November – Construction of the 63rd Street Tunnel begins

1992

  • Major investment and project feasibility studies of east side transportation alternatives begin

1998

  • April - Bringing Long Island Rail Road service directly to Grand Central Terminal is determined to be the best alternative following completion of the Major Investment Study
  • September - Environmental and planning work begins and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approves ESA to enter into preliminary engineering

2001

  • March - FTA Approves ESA Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision
  • September - Advance work begins in the Bronx on the Metro North Highbridge Yard

2002

  • June - FTA Approves ESA initiation of Final Design
  • July - Advance work begins in Queens on the LIRR Arch Street Yard and Shop Facility
  • October - Work begins in Queens on the open cut excavation, bellmouth excavation and other site preparation

2006

  • January - Amtrak Agreement signed by LIRR, MTACC, Amtrak
  • April - Major construction begins in Queens and Manhattan
  • July - Manhattan tunneling contract awarded
  • December - FTA and MTA sign full funding grant agreement for $2.6billion

2007

  • September - Tunnel boring work begins in Manhattan
  • December - Manhattan structures contract awarded

2009

  • September - 44th Street Ventilation Facility contract in Manhattan is awarded
  • October - Queens Tunnel Boring contract awarded
  • December - Contract for the 50th Street Ventilation Facility in Manhattan is awarded

2010

  • February - Northern Boulevard Crossing contract in Queens is awarded
  • October - Tunnel boring work in Manhattan is complete

2011

  • January - Tunnel boring work begins in Queens
  • July - Queens Structures contract is awarded

2012

  • July - Tunnel boring work in Queens is complete
  • September - Manhattan and Queens tunnels are connected; 55th Street Ventilation Facility Contract in Manhattan is awarded

2013

  • August - First contract for the permanent lining, interior structures and fit-out of the caverns and tunnels in Manhattan is awarded
  • September – Northern Boulevard Crossing contract in Queens is complete
  • October - Entrance at 245 Park Avenue in Manhattan opens to the public

2014

  • March - Second contract for the permanent lining, interior structures and fit-out of the caverns and tunnels in Manhattan is awarded
  • April - Systems contract for Queens and Manhattan is awarded
  • September - 50th Street Commons in Manhattan opens to the public; 44th Street ventilation Facility construction in Manhattan is completed

2015

  • February - Contract for the fit-out and completion of the LIRR Concourse in Manhattan is awarded
  • October - ESA enters the public realm of Grand Central Terminal on the Lower Level Dining Concourse for a future entrance to the LIRR Concourse
  • November – 55th Street Ventilation Facility construction in Manhattan is complete; one of two major Harold Interlocking infrastructure contracts in Queens is completed

2016

  • February – Second of two major Harold Interlocking infrastructure contracts in Queens is complete
  • April – Contract for the fit-out and construction of the two terminal caverns and project track installation is awarded. This is the last major contract for ESA in Manhattan
  • June – Mining of the Westbound Bypass tunnel in Queens begins
  • August – Fourth and final new train bridge for LIRR set by ESA in Queens
  • November – 38th Street Ventilation Facility construction in Manhattan is complete
  • December – First precast elements are delivered and installed in the Manhattan caverns

2017

  • January - Contract for the construction of the Track A cut-and-cover and approach structures in Harold Interlocking and Sunnyside Yard in Queens is awarded

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