Skip to main content
To homepage
Coronavirus updates: MTA Service During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Read more

    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

      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 $10.333 billion with a current estimate at completion of $11.1 billion. Revenue service is forecasted for December 2022.

      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 is being constructed in space formerly occupied by Metro-North’s Madison 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


      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.


      November – Construction of the 63rd Street Tunnel begins


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


      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


      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


      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


      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


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


      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


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


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


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


      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


      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


      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


      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


      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

    Google Translate