MTA pushes back full opening of long-stalled East Side Access project to 2023


New Yorkers will have to wait a little longer before the full launch of the MTA’s long-stalled East Side Access service, which will bring Long Island Rail Road trains into a new station beneath Grand Central Terminal.

Transit officials on Monday said the LIRR will launch a shuttle service between the new station and Jamaica Terminal by the end of the year, offering up to two trains per hour. That technically meets the MTA’s goal of opening the new station — named Grand Central Madison — by the end of 2022.

But the full East Side Access service — which will operate up to 24 trains per hour to and from the new station — won’t open until at least late January, LIRR and Metro-North president Cathy Rinaldi said.

“There’s some systems testing that’s still underway,” Rinaldi said during an MTA meeting. “Once that work is done, the expectation is that in the next couple of weeks we will be inaugurating a shuttle service between Grand Central Madison and Jamaica.”

The temporary service will be called “Grand Central Direct.”

The MTA will in the meantime continue to run its current LIRR schedules in and out of Penn Station, but is slated to shift some of that service to Grand Central Madison when the new service fully launches.

It’s the latest hiccup to one of the most delayed construction projects in the MTA’s history. Work on the East River tunnel that serves the new station began in the 1960s, but came to a halt during the city’s financial crisis in the 1970s.

Plans to build the new service and station relaunched in the 1990s — and in 2001 the MTA announced the work would be finished in 2011 at a cost of $4.3 billion.

Mismanagement and construction delays pushed back the opening more than 11 years — and the project’s cost now sits at roughly $11.6 billion, federal records show.

The MTA in 2014 told the Federal Transit Administration the project would not be finished until December 2022, and hasn’t pushed back the timeline since.

“The MTA has held the line on Grand Central Madison’s opening date and budget since I rebooted the project in 2017 by empowering project management,” MTA chairman Janno Lieber said in a statement.

MTA officials said the new station will be mostly complete by the time the new service fully launches next year. The escalators are up and running in the new station at eight of its 11 planned entrances. Two of those entrances will go into buildings that are still under construction, officials said.

But Grand Central Madison also carves out ample space for retailers. MTA officials said those storefronts will still be empty when the service launches.


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