Building the New LIRR Terminal Beneath Grand Central Terminal
Unbeknownst to most New Yorkers, construction of a new landmark commuter rail terminal is underway far below Park Avenue and the historic Grand Central Terminal.
Part of the MTA's East Side Access project, the new Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) concourse is beginning to take shape right beneath Metro-North Railroad's upper level at Grand Central Terminal. The concourse will provide LIRR commuters with 91,000 square feet of public space, including shops and pathways to Grand Central Terminal, the subway system and the street above.
The concourse is located on the west side of Metro-North's former lower level train storage yard, known as Madison Yard. Construction to transform Madison Yard to the future LIRR concourse began in March 2009. One of the more intricate tasks of the program is the installation of structural steel columns to support Metro-North's upper level train shed and buildings in the vicinity of the Park Avenue corridor. This allows for the safe removal of the existing support columns, making room for the excavation of four escalator wellways to provide access between the concourse and the caverns where LIRR trains will come into the station in the future.
The excavation of two new station caverns is also underway far below Metro-North's lower level platform. The caverns will provide eight tracks to accommodate LIRR customers. Each cavern will have an upper and a lower platform which are connected by a mid-level mezzanine. From there, customers can travel up one of seventeen 91-foot escalators to the concourse level.
Eventually, 32,000 linear feet of new tunnels in Manhattan will be excavated from the existing 63rd Street Tunnel down to 37th Street, traveling below Park Avenue. This is being done with two hard-rock tunnel boring machines. Approximately 22,200 feet of tunnel has been excavated to date in Manhattan. Two soft-ground tunnel boring machines will begin excavating 10,000 linear feet of tunnels in Queens to connect the 63rd street Tunnel to the existing LIRR tracks in Sunnyside Queens. All tunneling for the project is scheduled to be completed in 2012.
The East Side Access project will connect LIRR's Main and Port Washington lines in Queens to a new terminal beneath Grand Central Terminal. When completed in August 2019, it will increase LIRR's capacity into Manhattan and significantly relieve congestion at Penn Station. In addition, it will save an estimated 160,000 LIRR customers traveling from Long Island and eastern Queens approximately 30 to 40 minutes of time everyday by shortening their commutes to the east side of Manhattan.
East Side Access is the first expansion of LIRR, the largest commuter railroad in North America, in over a hundred years. It is one of the largest public works projects ever undertaken and the recipient of the largest federal funding grant to date.