New LIRR concourse at Grand Central unveiled as part of long-awaited East Side Access project

November 1, 2021

Governor Kathy Hochul rode a test train from Jamaica to the East Side Access complex at Grand Central Terminal on Sun., October 31, 2021. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA) Flickr

The project that will bring direct Long Island Rail Road service to Grand Central Terminal hit a major milestone this weekend. Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday rode the first passenger LIRR train into the new concourse at the Midtown East transit hub and gave the public a first look at the terminal. Expected to officially open in December 2022, the East Side Access project will provide direct service to Manhattan’s east side for Long Island and Queens commuters, while also reducing crowds at Penn Station.

Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA on Flickr

The concourse at Grand Central Terminal includes a 350,000-square-foot LIRR passenger concourse, four new platforms with eight tracks, and 25,000 square feet of new retail space below the lower level of the existing transit hub.

The plan was first proposed in the 1960s and was delayed for decades until construction started in 2006. The project’s expected construction costs have jumped to nearly $12 billion, up from original estimates of just over $2 billion, making it one of the most expensive projects of its kind in the world.

“As the first modern train terminal to be built in more than a half-century, the East Side Access concourse will expand rail service, cut down on travel times into East Manhattan from Queens and Long Island, and reduce crowding,” Hochul said in a statement. “This is yet another example of New York leading the way as we recover from the pandemic, and I look forward to the East Side Access concourse and route fully opening in December 2022.”

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the new Grand Central connection for LIRR commuters will cut travel time for Queens and Long Island commuters to the east side by 40 minutes per day, while also increasing LIRR capacity into Manhattan.

There will be 17 182-foot-long escalators (the longest in the MTA system) that will take commuters between the new concourse mezzanine of the train terminal, which is 140 feet below Par Avenue. The mezzanine leads to an upper train level that has two platforms and four tracks and a lower train level that also has two platforms and four tracks.

Trains come into Grand Central via an East River tunnel at 63rd Street, from Harold Interlocking in Queens, the busiest rail junction in the United States.

“The East Side Access project will deliver faster, direct service for Long Island and Queens commuters to the East Side of Manhattan, the densest job hub in North America,” Janno Lieber, the acting chair and CEO at the MTA, said. “This smart, transit-oriented development will help spur economic growth, provide better connections to Metro-NorthRailroad and lead to reduced automobile traffic and improved air quality in the region.”


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