East Side Access Milestone: Digniters drive first LIRR train into Grand Central

A Long Island Rail Road passenger train traveled from Jamaica Station to Grand Central Terminal for the first time Sunday, in a preview of the MTA’s long-delayed East Side Access mega-project of $ 11.2 billion.

The train departed from Jamaica at 8:04 with Governor Kathy Hochul and other dignitaries aboard the 27-minute trip to LIRR’s future second home in Manhattan.

When Hochul saw the train’s front-facing view from a monitor set up in the train aisle, Hochul wondered as the train sank into one of the newly completed tunnels transporting the LIRR under the East River to its new 350,000-square-foot passenger facility.

“We’ll get it right, and that’s why this project is finally on track,” Hochul said as he chatted with MTA and LIRR officials on board the train. “In a little over a year, we will have a very different customer experience.”

What to know

  • A Long Island Rail Road passenger train traveled from Jamaica Station to Grand Central Terminal for the first time Sunday, in a preview of the MTA’s long-delayed East Side Access mega-project of $ 11.2 billion.
  • MTA’s acting chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said East Side Access will remain on target for the opening day in December 2022.
  • The program aims to reduce the travel time for some commuters by 40 minutes a day, compared to taking the subway between Penn Station and Grand Central.

East Side Access, which dates back to the 1950s, aims to reduce the travel time of some commuters by 40 minutes a day, compared to taking the subway between Penn Station and Grand Central. It will also provide the necessary redundancy for LIRR in Manhattan, where problems at Penn Station can sometimes paralyze the region’s transportation network.

After several delays and cost overruns, major construction on the project – once predicted to be completed in 2009 at a cost of $ 4.3 billion – was completed earlier this year.

Although some technology systems still need to be installed and hundreds of employees need to be hired and trained, MTAs acting chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said East Side Access remains on target for the opening day in December 2022.

With the rails and station platforms already in place, LIRR recently began running test trains to and from Grand Central. Sunday’s Halloween morning ride on what was officially dubbed the “GOVTRAIN” was the first to transport non-MTA staff.

“Being able to be a part of the story that is being made today was really special,” said Matthew Cohen, president of the Long Island Association, a business group that was among the invited guests on the tour. “We were able to take the train for the first time into Grand Central station. It’s a great, great thing.”

It is unclear how many people will actually use LIRR’s new link to the East Side when it opens late next year. With many commuters continuing to work from home during the pandemic, LIRR’s equestrian numbers on weekdays remain at just over 50% of pre – COVID levels, and the MTA has said that equestrian numbers can only reach around 80% by 2025.

Hochul expressed optimism that New Yorkers will get something for their money with East Side Access.

“I believe that people – in a year – they will be back,” Hochul said. “By the time this is done and people see that they can have a much better commuting experience than they had pre-pandemic, it will also be tempting for people to say, ‘I’m going back to my job in downtown. ‘”

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