Tunnel Linking LIRR to Grand Central Terminal Could Be Delayed (Again)
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Long Island Railroad riders might not see service to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side of Manhattan until 2019, a year later than expected.
Joe Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told business leaders on Long Island that the tunnel project has bogged down beneath a railyard in Sunnyside, Queens. Contaminated soil and an unexpected abundance of underground brooks and springs have slowed digging. He said the authority has brought in tunneling experts from Europe to help solve the problems.
The project, called East Side Access, will bring Long Island Railroad trains beneath the East River to Grand Central Terminal. Now, all LIRR trains go to Penn Station, on Manhattan’s West Side.
Lhota called East Side Access the first major expansion of the LIRR in 100 years. He said that, on completion, it would shave about 40 minutes off commuting time for Long Islanders who work on the East Side of Manhattan and would increase capacity of the railroad by 41 percent.
“There are 800,000 people per day that go through Penn Station,” Lhota said, according to Long Island Business News. “And 60 percent of those are Long Island Rail Road riders. East Side Access should relieve a lot of that burden.”
The project, which was originally slated for completion in 2015, has been delayed several times.
MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg walked back Lhota’s remarks. He said, “Chairman Joe Lhota did say this morning that a very preliminary study that he saw has a risk of the deadline going into 2019. We’re in the process of re-evaluating the deadline on East Side Access and will report to board on it at the end of May.”
Lisberg said MTA engineers are looking at “several different types of studies” to determine whether to stick with or push back the current 2018 deadline. “It’s complex tech stuff and the experts don’t always agree,” he said.
The MTA said previous delays were caused in part by conflicts with Amtrak, which is also working on construction projects at the Sunnyside Railyards in Queens, slowing digging for East Side Access. Lisberg said those problems have been solved. “In January, at one of our meetings, there was discussion of problems with scheduling work in coordination with Amtrak,” he said.” Now we’re very well coordinated.”