WEEKEND EDITION

East Side Access Project: Delays Now, Shorter Commutes Later

| July 23, 2012 4:00 AMvideo

By 2019, Long Island commuters could have a “one seat ride” to Grand Central Terminal. East Side Access, a system of tunnels and tracks will connect LIRR’s Main and Port Washington lines in Queens to a brand new East Side station directly underneath Grand Central Terminal.

According to the Long Island Railroad’s tally, people use its trains to make 220,000 trips each weekday in and out of Penn Station. At rush hour, many Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuters have grown accustomed to feeling more like sardines than strangers on a train.

Well aware of the squeeze on both their customers and number of trains they can run, the MTA has been working on a massive project to alleviate congestion at Penn. East Side Access will connect LIRR’s Main and Port Washington lines in Queens to a brand new East Side station directly underneath Grand Central Terminal. LIRR riders will then have the option of arriving on the East or West side of Midtown Manhattan, both magnet areas for workplaces and well connected to subway lines.

A map of the East Side Access project shows existing tunnels under the East River used by LIRR trains. The 63rd Street Tunnel is currently used only by MTA subway trains. By 2019, new tunnels and tracks, represented by the dashed lines, will open a path for LIRR trains to pass through that tunnel intro Grand Central Terminal. Image courtesy of the MTA.

The MTA announced that once the connection is complete, it will not only increase the rail capacity into Manhattan by nearly 50 percent, but it will also save East Side-bound travelers 30 to 40 minutes a day. And the MTA predicts that the eased commute has more than just workaday benefits.

“Commuters throughout Long Island and Queens will have more service to Manhattan and shorter travel times to the East Side—making these communities even more attractive places to live, increasing housing values, and unlocking the next wave of economic development potential on Long Island,” said MTA Chairman Jay H. Walder.

The undertaking is taking longer than expected. In July 2009, the MTA estimated the project would be finished in 2016, but a recent announcement pushed the completion date back another three years.

East Side Access will provide Long Island Rail Road commuters a "one-seat ride" to Manhattan's East Side. A rendering of the platforms where LIRR trains will arrive at Grand Central Terminal -- over 140 feet underground. Image courtesy of the MTA.

“Unfortunately, that time horizon did not take into account the type of full, rigorous risk assessment that we have now undertaken,” said Aaron Donovan, media liaison for the MTA, “which gives us 80 percent confidence that the project will be completed in August of 2019.”

Along with the delayed completion date came a $2 billion increase in the price tag, ballooning the project budget to $8.24 billion.

The project’s largest task is to create underground tunnels to connect to existing tunnels. Tunnels have already been built in Manhattan and the MTA is working on the last of four tunnels needed in Queens. In May, the MTA made a huge breakthrough when the third Queens tunnel was completed ahead of schedule.

“We are delighted to complete this important milestone,” said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota upon the third tunnel’s completion. “Each piece of the project that we bring in ahead of schedule means we can dedicate resources to those parts of the project that most need attention.”

The fourth and final tunnel is expected to be completed next month.

While they wait for the benefits shorter travel time and more space, commuters will have to endure longer travel times and some overcrowding. Due to the construction in Queens, an important switch, Switch 813, will be taken out of service. The switch regulates a third of all eastbound train traffic that goes through The Harold Interlocking, a massive switching yard. As a result, on July 9 the LIRR began canceling and combining three evening rush hour trains. The disrupted service will impact Babylon, Long Beach and Montauk lines. These changes will be effective for the next four weeks.

Despite how distant the completion date may seem, or how inconvenient the current delays may be, the MTA promises the coming changes to Long Islanders’ commutes will be well worth the wait.

According to a press release from the MTA, the canceled PM Peak eastbound trains are:

  • The 4:52 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon will be canceled. Customers will be on the 5:03 p.m. train from Penn Station, making all stops to Babylon.
  • The 5:20 p.m. train from Penn Station to Long Beach will be canceled. Customers will be on the 5:23 p.m. train from Penn Station stopping at Jamaica, then all stops to Long Beach.
  • The 5:40 p.m. train from Penn Station to Seaford will be canceled. Customers will be on the 5:47 p.m. train from Penn Station, which will make all stops from Rockville Centre to Seaford.

The following PM Peak trains with adjusted schedules include:

  • The 5:36 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon, which will depart Penn Station one minute later (at 5:37 p.m.) and arrive Babylon two minutes later at 6:42 p.m.
  • The 5:55 p.m. train from Penn Station to Long Beach will arrive at Long Beach one minute later at 6:52 p.m.
  • The 5:59 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon will arrive at Babylon five minutes later at 7:04 p.m.
  • The 6:44 p.m. train from Babylon to Patchogue will operate two minutes later, departing Babylon at 6:46 p.m. and arriving Patchogue at 7:16 p.m. as a result of its connecting train from Penn Station (the 5:37 p.m.) arriving two minutes later at Babylon.

“MetroFocus: Transforming Transportation” premieres on Tuesday, July 24 at 10:30 p.m. on WLIW21; Wednesday, July 25 at 10:30 p.m. on NJTV; and Thursday, July 26 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

  • Chris Swendsen

    When
    you speak about million dollars worth of transportation improvements there are
    a lot of projects which make the MTA commuter railroads more efficient.

    Please get
    the word out to connect Metro-North’s Upper Hudson Division to the LIRR’s Upper
    Port Jefferson via. Penn, Station, using Metro-North’s Dual Mode Train Sets.
    This would make both railroads more efficient and give the LIRR’s Upper Port
    Jefferson more through trains to Penn Station. This would increase the number
    through trains to Penn Station

    If
    anyone says it is impossible just say Amtrak operated a round train between
    Albany and Shea Stadium Station on the LIRR’s Port Washington Branch via Penn Station,
    using dual mode equipment. Amtrak’s train to Shea Stadium Station uses
    Metro-North’s Upper Hudson Division as part of the route for their upstate.
    Other the LIRR’s diesel lines should also be considered. Remember you should
    not have to drive to Ronkonkoma for better train’s service. Local governments
    should not spend money on more parking facilities. This could be sent on more
    mass transit

    Why
    does  Metro-North have an agreement with
    New Jersey Transit to operate a train from New Haven to the Meadow Lands during
    football season and cannot make an agreement with the LIRR for this type of
    train service. The Eastside Access to Grand Central is for electric trains,
    diesel rides; still have to change trains to get to their final destination.

    Again help get
    the word out by writing to the MTA, LIRR, Metro- North and your New York State
    Senate and Assembly Representatives.

     If anyone says it is impossible just say
    Amtrak operated a round train between Albany and Shea Stadium Station on the
    LIRR’s via Penn Station using dual mode equipment. Amtrak’s train to Shea
    Stadium Station uses Metro-North’s Upper Hudson Division as part of the route
    for their upstate. Other the LIRR’s

    Diesel lines
    should also be considered. Remember you should not have to drive to Ronkonkoma
    for better trains service .Why does 
    Metro-North have an agreement with New Jersey Transit to operate a train
    from New Haven to the Meadow Lands during football season and cannot make an
    agreement with the LIRR for this type of train service. The Long Island Railroads
    Eastside Access to Grand Central is for electric trains, LIRR diesel riders; still have to change
    trains to get to their final destination. We deserve more through train service
    to Penn Station without the cost of electrification

    Sincerely,

    Chris Swendsen

    PS  read this article
    below

     

     

     

     

     

    Metro-North Looking at Going to Beach

    By MATTHEW L. WALD
    Published: June 16, 1993

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    The next time you are on the way to
    the beach, rather than at the beach, because of traffic on the highways and
    bridges, think about boarding an air-conditioned Metro-North train in Yonkers
    or Tarrytown, whisking through Penn Station and then out to Jones Beach, the
    Fire Island ferries or even Montauk.

    Sound attractive?

    The Metro-North Commuter Railroad
    likes the idea and is about to sign a $250,000 contract with a market research
    firm to evaluate the potential demand for summer weekend service to Long Island
    and other areas. The service would not require new trains or tracks, but it is
    probably years away because it would pose complicated legal and technical
    problems. It would also take substantial negotiations between Metro-North and
    the Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak, whose tracks would also be needed.

    “Conceptually, everyone says,
    ‘Hey, that sounds nice,’ ” said Howard Permute, Metro-North’s vice
    president for planning and development. “It’s a new way of thinking about
    rail service, and making it a better region.”

    The Long Island Rail Road, which
    already sells 60,000 to 90,000 special beach-package trips each summer, likes
    the idea too. “If they can work out the technology, we think it would be
    good for Long Island tourism and we welcome it,” said Susan McGowan, a
    spokeswoman. Avoid Manhattan

    But given the region’s fragmented
    rail system, with different equipment and a patchwork of track ownership, all
    sides say there are complicated problems. One is that the system is designed
    largely to carry weekday commuters from the suburbs to different stations in
    midtown Manhattan, rather than to move people around the area.

    Metro-North and the Long Island Rail
    Road connect only through Amtrak. The most likely link is for Hudson Line
    trains to follow the regular commuter route as far south as Spuyten Duyvil,
    where the Harlem and Hudson Rivers meet, and then run across the Harlem River
    and down the western edge of Manhattan to Penn Station on tracks that Amtrak
    owns and uses for its New York to Albany run. From there the Metro-North trains
    could travel east along the same route as Long Island Rail Road trains.

    Another option would be for
    Metro-North to avoid Manhattan completely and run trains down its New Haven
    Line to a point just south of the New Rochelle train station, and follow the
    Amtrak tracks that branch off there and run past Co-op City in the Bronx and
    over the Hell Gate Bridge into Queens. In Queens, trains could pick up the Long
    Island Rail Road’s tracks 
     PLease contact the MTA or your New York State
    Legislators and say commuters who use LIRR non- electrified lines
    do not have to drive to an electrified station for better train service.

    Legislators and say commuters who use LIRR non- electrified lines
    do not have to drive to an electrified station for better train service.

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