Sneak Peek: East Side Access, the $8 Billion Project Bringing Long Island Railroad to Grand Central

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In January of 1999 President Bill Clinton’s budget proposal to congress included $20 million in funds for East Side Access, a project that would bring the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal, which turns 100-years-old on Saturday. The projected cost back then was $2.2 billion.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu led members of the media on a tour yesterday of the project, which he estimated was about 45 percent complete. East Side Access is scheduled to open in August of 2019 at a price tag currently estimated at $8.24 billion.

East Side Access will bring 160,000 Long Island commuters roughly 11 miles from a new station in Queens’ Sunnyside Yard to Grand Central, shaving an average 40 minutes off the trips of the majority of L.I.R.R. riders who work closer to G.C.T. than Penn Station. A new 350,000-square-foot concourse–its design will mimic the existing main terminal’s–will include retail space as well as 51 elevators and escalators descending 160 feet below the earth to four platforms handling eight rail tracks.

Mr. Horodniceanu spoke proudly of his project as he guided the crowd  through a network of windy, chilly and sometimes acrid tunnels deep below midtown from 44th through 59th Streets. “If you’re an engineer, this is a dream come true,” Mr. Horodniceanu said. “Frankly, this will be my legacy to leave behind. I only hope I make it another six years.”

The L.I.R.R. concourse at Grand Central Terminal.

One of four wellways through which 17 escalators will bring commuters up 118 feet from the platforms to the concourse.

The layout.

Subterranean sports commentary.

Deep in the caverns.

The recessed nooks will hold “central instrumentation” like signal equipment.

Construction runs in shifts five days a week, 24 hours a day. Around 350 workers are present at a given moment.

Union flair.

A view of the platforms from the mezzanine, which sits about 65 feet below ground level.

Trains will enter Manhattan through two tunnels at 63rd Street. They split into four tunnels at 58th Street and eight at 48th Street before docking on two upper and lower level platforms.

Live construction.

A tunnel with its waterproofing exposed.

The platform. The escalators will be planted where the green pools are now.