East Side Access

East Side Access

East Side Access is a public works project being undertaken by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City, designed to bring the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) into a new East Side station to be built below and incorporated into Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.


Access to the East Side of Manhattan has long been a dream of LIRR riders who work on the East Side but must now commute into the Long Island Rail Road's sole current Manhattan stop at the congested Pennsylvania Station, on the West Side. A 1998 study showed that only 36% of all jobs in Midtown are within walking distance of Pennsylvania Station, while almost 70% are within walking distance of Grand Central Terminal, the other major Manhattan rail terminal. (There is some overlap, and some jobs are not within walking distance of either facility.) Direct service to the East Side would allow many riders to walk to work and allow other riders to reduce the number of subway and bus transfers they must make in order to reach their jobs, shortening and simplifying their commutes and cutting up to 40 minutes off their daily travel time. The addition of a new Manhattan terminal will also increase capacity on the LIRR as a whole.

The new LIRR East Side station under Grand Central Terminal will offer new entrances, a concourse, eight tracks on four platforms lower than the existing Metro-North lower level tracks, and a mid-level mezzanine. This new station would allow easier transfers for commuters travelling between Long Island on the Long Island Railroad, Metro-North Railroad destinations (in the Bronx, Westchester County, the Hudson Valley, and Connecticut), and the New York City Subway. The new terminal will increase the number of tracks at Grand Central from 67 to 75. The terminal will be reached by high-rise escalators.

Initially the East Side Access (ESA) project was supposed to reduce congestion at Penn Station and allow Metro-North (MNR) to offer train service to that station via the old New York Central West Side Line and the New York, New Haven and Hartford RR's Hell Gate Line, both currently used only by Amtrak. However, due to ridership growth on the LIRR, the ESA project will simply add critically needed capacity for the LIRR. MNR still plans to offer service to Penn Station, but will likely wait until New Jersey Transit completes its Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel project, which — though significantly increasing New Jersey Transit traffic between New Jersey and New York City — will also expand Penn Station.

Route and service level

Extending between Sunnyside, Queens, and Grand Central Terminal, the East Side Access project will route the LIRR from its Main Line through new track connections in Sunnyside Yard and through the lower level of the existing 63rd Street Tunnel under the East River. In Manhattan, a new tunnel will begin at the western end of the 63rd Street Tunnel at Second Avenue, curving south under Park Avenue and entering a new LIRR terminal beneath Grand Central Terminal.

Current plans call for 24-trains-per-hour service to Grand Central Terminal during peak morning hours, with an estimated 162,000 passenger trips to and from Grand Central on an average weekday. Connections to AirTrain JFK at Jamaica Station in Jamaica, Queens, will facilitate travel to John F. Kennedy International Airport from the East Side of Manhattan.

A new LIRR train station in Sunnyside at Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue [cite web
url= http://mta.info/capconstr/esas/feisfiles/02_project_alternatives.pdf
title= Chapter 2: Project Alternatives
accessdate= 2008-02-15
year= 2001
month= March
format= PDF
work= East Side Access - Final Environmental Impact Statement
publisher= Federal Transit Administration and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York, in cooperation with the MTA Long Island Rail Road
pages= 2-20:2-21
quote= The station's main entrance would be at street level on the west side of the Queens Boulevardbridge near its Skillman Avenue end, directly above the center platform.
] along the LIRR’s Main Line (into Penn Station) will provide one-stop access for area residents to Midtown Manhattan. [Vandam, Jeff. [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/realestate/04livi.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&sq= "An Enclave at Once Snug and Inclusive"] , "The New York Times", February 4, 2007. Accessed February 14, 2008. "When the Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access project is completed in 2013, its trains, too, will go to Grand Central. Sunnyside’s new station in the system will create a nonstop commute to Midtown."] The station may spur economic development and growth in Long Island City.

Construction history and progress

Construction of the line to Grand Central was begun in November 1969 (see IND 63rd Street Line) as the lower level of a cut-and-cover project to build the New York City Subway's 63rd St Line. The MTA's contractor floated premanufactured four-chamber tunnel boxes into place in the East River and sank them to create the East River crossings for the subway and the LIRR. After a long delay caused by New York City's fiscal collapse of the 1970s, the 63rd St subway line and LIRR tunnel were completed as far as 21 St in Long Island City. Between 1995 and 2001, the 63rd St subway line was connected to the Queens Blvd. corridor, and the LIRR tunnel was extended under 41 Avenue in Queens to the west side of Northern Blvd. The western end of this tunnel sat under Second Avenue at 63 Street.

The current East Side Access Project represents the construction effort to complete the line to Grand Central Terminal. After voters in New York approved a bond issue to provide state funds to the project, the federal government committed to provide $2.6 billion to help build the East Side Access project by signing a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) in December 2006. [cite press release| url=http://www.dot.gov/affairs/dot11706.htm| title=U.S. Transportation Secretary Signs Record $2.6 Billion Agreement to Fund New Tunnel Network To Give Long Island Commuters Direct Access to Grand Central Station| publisher=United States Department of Transportation| date=2006-12-18| accessdate=2007-01-18 ] The construction contract for a one-mile tunnel in Manhattan west and southward from the long dormant lower level of the 63rd Street rail tunnel to the new station beneath Grand Central terminal was awarded on July 13, 2006, to Dragados/Judlau, a joint American-Spanish venture (the American company is located in College Point, Queens, NY). [http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=5&aid=60962 MTA Takes Major Step Towards Completing East Side Access Plan] , NY1, July 12, 2006] The total contract award is $430 million, and is utilizing two large tunneling devices owned by the Spanish firm. [http://www.mta.info/capconstr/procurement/cc_recentawards.htm MTA Capital Construction - Procurement ] ] Judlau created a launch chamber for tunnel boring machines under Second Avenue at 63rd St using a controlled drill-and-blast method, then assembled and launched each 640-ton machine. The first TBM was launched west and southbound from the 63rd Street tunnel in September 2007 and reached Grand Central in July 2008 [http://mta.info/mta/news/releases/?en=080702-HQ26 MTA Press Releases] , First TBM Reaches GCT.] . The second machine began boring a parallel tunnel in December 2007 and had completed its tunnel at 37th Street September 30, 2008 [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/nyregion/18tunnel.html?_r=2&ref=nyregion&oref=slogin&oref=slogin 19 Stories Below Manhattan, a 640-Ton Machine Drills a New Train Tunnel, New York Times, July 17, 2008] ] [ [http://www.mta.info/capconstr/esas/manhattan_progress_map.htm MTA ESA Progress Map retrieved October 9, 2008] ] Geocomp Corporation was hired to monitor the boring, using a battery of instruments to record vibration, ground settlement and any tilting or drift suffered by the TBM. The instruments include inclinometers, extensometers, seismographs, observation wells, dynamic strain gauges, tilt meters and automated motorized total stations (AMTS) with prismatic targets [ [http://www.geocomp.com/consulting/Projects/East%20Side%20Access%20Monitoring%20v2.pdf Geocomp Corp. Brochure] ] . The next step in construction is to back the TBMs out of the tunnels and cast-in-place concrete sections placed to create the lining. [MTA's Official East Side Access Project Page] Each tunnel will be 22 feet in diameter and carry trains 140 feet beneath street level.http://www.mta.info/capconstr/esas/CM009%20Handout_101807.pdf] The TBMs bored an average of 50 feet per day. Cross-connections between the tunnels are being created under Park Avenue, between 49th Street and 51st Street, by controlled drill-and-blast; the second tunnel is far enough along so that this work will begin in mid-July and require between six and eight months to complete. [ [http://mta.info/mta/news/releases/?en=080702-HQ26 MTA Press Release July 2, 2008] ]

In Queens, Pile Foundation Construction Company is building an $83 million open-cut and deck project, which is extending the tracks under Northern Blvd into Sunnyside Yard, and creating an area that serves as both the launch chamber for soft-bore Queens tunnels, connecting the 63rd St line to the main LIRR branches, and an interlocking and emergency exit and venting facility. [MTA East Side Access Work Underway] . [ [http://construction.com/NewsCenter/Headlines/RP/20060523ny.asp New York's Subway System Finally Starting Major Expansion] , newyork.construction.com, May 2006 issue] Perini Corporation was awarded a $161 million contract to reconfigure Harold Interlocking, increasing its capacity to accommodate Grand Central-bound trains and accept new yard lead tracks to allow trains to enter the storage yards. On February 15, 2008, MTA awarded Dragados-Judlau a $499 million contract to excavate the LIRR station cavern and track wye caverns.

Cost inflation and community impact

The East Side Access project cost has increased from $3 billion in 1998Fact|date=February 2007 to US$6.3 billion in 2006. Construction work is ongoing and a 2015 completion date is projected.

Given the massive size of the project, the plan has aroused concerns and opposition. In 2005, businesses and Edward Cardinal Egan began to express concerns about the tunneling process. Egan in particular is concerned about the impact on St. Patrick's Cathedral, which faces Fifth Avenue with its back on Madison Avenue north of 50th Street. The project is proposing that an air vent be placed south of 50th Street and east of Madison Avenue, just outside the existing trainshed. [ [http://www.nysun.com/article/8991 East Side Access Draws Opponents] , "New York Sun", February 10, 2005]

ide effects

East Side Access is likely to affect commuting patterns in Manhattan and put greatly increased passenger loads on the already overcrowded IRT Lexington Avenue Line, the sole East Side subway line, as well as on surface bus routes on the East Side. The project has, therefore, focused attention on the long-delayed Second Avenue Subway along the far East Side of Manhattan, which is now under construction. It is expected to relieve north/south commuting pressure emanating from Grand Central Terminal.

At the same time, East Side Access will reduce the load on morning northbound rush-hour NYCS|E service between Pennsylvania Station and Midtown East.


External links

* [http://mta.info/capconstr/esas/index.html MTA's Official East Side Access Project Page]
* [http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?p=99645 Wired New York discussion forum on project]
* [http://www.parsons.com/about/press_rm/potm/08-2001/index.html Parsons Project Profile]
* [http://www.mta.info/capconstr/procurement/cc_recentawards.htm MTACC Procurement]
* [http://www.mta.info/capconstr/esas/construction_update.htm#underway MTA East Side Access Work Underway]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOrzcaN_YDM&feature=related YouTube video of construction, 2007]

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