East Side Access
Monday, January 27, 2014
By Jim O'Grady
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been drawing negative headlines and scrutiny because of recent performance problems, including last Thursday's evening rush hour power failure and last December's fatal derailment. But that's not all.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) Michael Horodniceanu, the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's master builder, was sweating as he stood in a cavern blasted from the layers of schist below Grand Central Terminal, which marks its 100th year on Friday. He was considering the question of which, in the end, would be thought of as the bigger job: building the original terminal or the the tunnels that the authority is bringing into a new $8.24 billion station it is constructing beneath the existing one.
"This one," he said. "Because people have been building above ground for a long time. We've been digging for a long time--we have about 6 miles of tunnels just in Manhattan. We've been digging under the most expensive real estate you can find in New York."
What's he and hundreds of sandhogs are creating is a project called East Side Access: 350,000 square feet of track, platforms, escalators and concourses that will, for the first time, connect Long Island Railroad to the East Side of Manhattan. It will double the size of Grand Central Terminal without enlarging its footprint, and it is expected to shave 40 minutes off the commutes of about 160,000 passengers per weekday. Currently, Long Islanders who work on the East Side of Manhattan must travel to Penn Station, on the West Side, and double back.
The project is $2 billion over-budget and its 2019 completion date puts it six years behind schedule--another reason Horodniceanu is sweating.
This is people-intensive work," he said. "We use the best technology but, in the end, it takes people." As he spoke, a worker operated a backhoe that clawed rock from a watery pit. The pit was lit by a high-intensity kleig light, which barely held back the subterranean gloom.
Every day 750,000 visitors pass through Grand Central Terminal, making it the largest hub for train traffic in the world. Of East Side Access's impact on Grand Central Station, Horodniceanu said, "What we are doing now is we are basically preparing it for the next 100 years. "
Thursday, July 26, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Sam Schwartz -- an engineer and former NYC traffic commissioner -- has been shopping a plan he says would make toll pricing more in New York City more rational and equitable. He talks about it on the latest episode of the public television show MetroFocus, starting with a tried and true thought experiment: the alien considering a human custom--in this case, the city's tolling policy--and finding it strange.
"If you were an urban planner from Mars," he said, "and you wanted to go to the center of New York City, you would assume it was Staten Island, because we charge everybody to go into Staten Island. That's crazy."
Instead, Schwartz would raise tolls on approaches to the central business district of Manhattan and lower tolls to geographically peripheral areas like Staten Island and The Rockaways. The plan is generating buzz among urban planners but Schwarz is still seeking a wider audience, knowing such plans in the past have proved a heavy political lift.
The rest of this week's show is devoted to New York City transportation, including the MTA's East Side Access project, bringing real-time bus information to passengers, and a profile of senior citizens in Brooklyn whom are agitating for pedestrian safety.
Bonus: you'll learn the backstory of how Schwartz coined the term 'gridlock,' which he says he can't take sole credit for.
If you're in the New York City area, the episode will air on WNET Thursday night at 8:30. Or watch below!
Monday, July 09, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) About 5,000 riders on Long Island Railroad will see their evening rush hour train either cut or delayed for as long as a month starting Monday.
The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the LIRR, is taking a single switch in Queens out of service so it can dig the next length of the East Side Access Tunnel — a project designed to bring LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal by August 2019.
Switch 813 regulates 1/3 of all eastbound train traffic as it passes through a massive switching yard called The Harold Interlocking.
The switch can't be operated while a giant boring machine is tunneling beneath it. With only two tracks remaining to handle the evening rush, train traffic must be juggled.
The NY MTA said riders can expect the following changes:
- The 4:52 PM train from Penn Station to Babylon will be canceled.
- The 5:20 PM train from Penn Station to Long Beach will be canceled.
- The 5:40 PM train from Penn Station to Seaford will be canceled.
The four PM Peak trains with adjusted schedules include:
- The 5:36 PM train from Penn Station to Babylon, which will depart Penn Station one minute later (at 5:37 PM) and arrive Babylon two minutes later at 6:42 PM.
- The 5:55 PM train from Penn Station to Long Beach will arrive at Long Beach one minute later at 6:52 PM.
- The 5:59 PM train from Penn Station to Babylon will arrive at Babylon five minutes later at 7:04 PM.
- The 6:44 PM train from Babylon to Patchogue will operate two minutes later, departing Babylon at 6:46 PM and arriving Patchogue at 7:16 PM as a result of its connecting train from Penn Station (the 5:37 PM) arriving two minutes later at Babylon.
The NY MTA has been alerting riders to the changes through an alert on its website, fliers posted at stations and dropped on trains seats, and email alerts to the 30,000 customers who subscribe to them.
Those efforts weren't enough for the Long Island Railroad Commuters Council, which urged the LIRR to post workers in stations and on platforms during the first days of the schedule changes.
LIRR spokesman Sal Arena said that will now happen. "Railroad president Joe Calderone said to The Riders Council, 'You're right. Let's do it.'" Arena said riders confused by the changes can expect to see LIRR workers in reflective vests at Penn Station in Manhattan, Jamaica Station in Queens and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.
For more on East Side Access, go here.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
By Kate Hinds
More Bronx residents are commuting to northern suburbs for work -- and the health care industry is what's drawing them.
William Wheeler, the director of special project development and planning at the New York MTA, said 235 trains serve the Bronx's 13 Metro-North stations each weekday -- and more are needed.
"Approximately 8.1 million rides were taken to and from Bronx stations last year," said Wheeler. "That’s a threefold increase since 1985." About two-thirds of these riders start their rides in the Bronx and travel to points north: places like White Plains, Stamford, and Greenwich.
"This is the largest reverse commute market that we know of in the United States," he said, "and it’s grown 150% since 1990."
"One of the major factors that generates a lot of that travel is health care employment," he said. "And I'm not just talking about hospital complexes and medical facilities, but elder care and other services that are directly related to health care."
The MTA is studying adding four Metro-North stations in the Bronx, at Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point. But capacity for that service likely won't be possible until East Side Access is completed, bringing some Long Island Rail Road trains to Grand Central -- theoretically freeing up space at Penn Station for Bronx-bound trains.
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) 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 NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told business leaders on Long Island that the tunnel project has bogged down beneath a railyard in Sunnyside, Queens, where 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 scheduled for completion in 2015, has been delayed several times. (The NY MTA's website still lists an obsolete end date of 2016.)
NY MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg later 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 the board on it at the end of May."
Lisberg said NY 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 NY MTA has 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."
And now comes this statement from the MTA press office:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is reevaluating the risks in the construction schedule for the East Side Access project, and plans to present its findings to the Capital Program Oversight Committee later this month. One preliminary analysis of risk factors has indicated the completion date may move to 2019, as East Side Access construction intensifies in the busiest passenger rail yard and the largest passenger rail interchange in the nation.
The analysis is not complete, and the MTA is identifying ways to mitigate those risk factors to allow the project to be completed as early as possible. The MTA continues to work with its partners at the Federal Transit Administration to update the East Side Access funding agreement to reflect the new schedule.
Amtrak and the MTA are working closely together on East Side Access and improvements to the East River tunnels and the Harold Interlocking to accommodate the roughly 500,000 passengers who rely on 1,200 train movements through the region each day. Senior executives at Amtrak, the MTA and NJ Transit regularly meet to coordinate construction activities and do everything possible to keep work moving forward.
TN MOVING STORIES: DC Uses Decoys to Catch Bike Thieves, Toyota Plant Opens in Tupelo, Congress Approves Gateway Tunnel $
Friday, November 18, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
For transit agencies, climate change could cost billions. (Link)
House Republicans marry domestic energy drilling to transportation funds. (Link)
Congress zeroes out high-speed rail funding. (Link)
An East Side Access tunnel worker was killed by falling concrete under Grand Central Terminal. (New York Times)
Congress formally approved $15 million for the trans-Hudson Gateway Tunnel; engineering work will now begin. (The Star-Ledger)
DC's transit police are using decoys to catch bike thieves. (Washington Post)
Rethinking public transit, especially in rural areas, doesn't have to be expensive. (New York Times Opinionator)
"Secret" Port Authority bonuses are being investigated by the NY Comptroller's Office. (The Record)
A long-awaited Toyota plant is finally opening in Tupelo, Mississippi. (Atlantic Cities)
Staten Islanders will protest tolls tomorrow. (SILive.com)
TN MOVING STORIES: Occupy Oakland Shuts Down Port, A Look At East Side Access, and Moscow's Subway: Best In the World?
Thursday, November 03, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
High-speed rail naysayer Rick Scott says California's program is a "boondoggle." (Link)
Although an agreement should happen soon, almost 1,000 Long Island Bus employees could be laid off. (Link)
Obama takes 30 minutes to pitch the transportation jobs bill in DC. (Link)
Occupy Oakland demonstrations shut down the port. (Marketplace)
The Department of Defense will pay $270 million to ease traffic congestion created by the recently implemented Base Realignment and Closure. (WAMU)
The full City Council will vote on whether to send a plan to implement residential parking permits in NYC to Albany for consideration. (New York Times)
Moscow's state-owned subway system is efficient, attractive and profitable. (Atlantic Cities)
A Chicago suburb is ending its red light camera program. (WBEZ)
A look at New York's East Side Access project, which will bring the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal. (DNA Info)
Biking: it's good for you. (NPR)
What if electric cars could charge without plugs? (Good)
Monday, June 20, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says New Jersey's transportation loss should be Long Island's gain.
The Senator is supporting a $2.2 billion low-interest loan from the federal government to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The money was originally earmarked for a commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River that Governor Chris Christie killed in October. Schumer says it should now go to finishing East Side Access, a project connecting Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Station through tunnels beneath the East River. Long Island Railroad is the nation's largest commuter line.
East Side Access is supposed to be done by 2016, but is only funded through the end of the year. The project is designed to speed up trips for about 160,000 riders from Long Island to Manhattan's East Side by as much as 30 to 40 minutes.
More than $5 billion in state and federal funds have already been spent on the new rail connection, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the U.S. But East Side Access is still facing a $2.2 billion shortfall.
The MTA applied for the loan in late April to the Federal Railroad Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Spokesman Aaron Donovan said the authority is "in discussions with the U.S. DOT as part of the application process but we don't have an estimate on when we'll hear back."
U.S. DOT spokeswoman Olivia Alair said "We do not have comment on this today."
Most Long Island Railroad trains cross under Manhattan to arrive at Penn Station on the West Side, adding to congestion at that station and forcing commuters with jobs on the East Side to double back by bus or subway. Schumer said eliminating that bottleneck and adding flexibility to the system will "boost New York as the economic engine of the region."
Saturday, March 19, 2011
(Queens, New York -- Alva French, WNYC) The MTA christened two new tunnel boring machines to kick off the Queens tunneling phase of the East Side Access Project. The East Side Access Project will provide a nonstop link to Grand Central Station on the LIRR and create a new transportation hub in Sunnyside, Queens.
Five miles of Manhattan bedrock have already been excavated to create two new tunnels slated for completion in May 2011. In April, the underground journey continues through softer soil in Queens for almost two additional miles. All four new tunnels using customized excavation techniques will be finished in October 2012, while the overall project will be put into service by 2016.
It's the biggest infrastructure project in the nation, the MTA says. More here.
MTA Squabbling + Poor Management = Years of Delays and Nearly $2 Billion Over Budget on Mega-Projects
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
By Jim O'Grady
(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The Inspector General of the New York area Metropolitan Transportation Authority slammed the agency in a report for ignoring procedures it had set up to keep mega-projects on budget and on schedule.
Predictably, says Inspector Barry Kluger, three of those projects are now nearly $2 billion over-budget combined and delayed by two to five years. That means subway riders and others must slog through construction zones all the longer while waiting for expanded service that is repeatedly postponed as taxpayers rack up greater and greater debt.
These “mega-projects have experienced well-publicized budget overruns and disruptive schedule delays that have seriously undermined public confidence in the MTA’s management,” the report said.
Two of the projects are already five years behind schedule: an extension of Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal, now expected to be done by April 2018, and the first leg of the Second Ave. subway, now scheduled for completion in 2017. The Fulton Transit Center, with its projected finish in 2014, looks good by comparison. It’s only two and a half years late.
Only the 7 Train Extension, the last of the MTA’s four megaprojects, does not suffer from significant lateness or cost over-runs. The four projects have budgets totaling $15.32 billion.
Kluger says MTA Capital Construction, a subsidiary charged with overseeing the agency’s capital spending, clashed with an “independent engineering firm”—it did not name the firm—over who was in charge of monitoring the projects. His report says the engineering firm was at times given too much to do with too little information. And the firm wrote bad reports that lacked clear summaries or were too technically detailed to be easily understood. Sometimes, when the firm did make a plain recommendation, MTA Capital Construction ignored it.
At Kluger’s insistence, the MTA has separated the squabbling entities. The agency’s Office of Construction Oversight will now manage the independent engineer. The Office's mandate is to bring about “less conflict and more effectiveness to the oversight process.”
Kluger said another problem was megaprojects bidding against each other for a limited number of highly specialized contractors, which drove up prices. He warned that this might soon happen again as each project goes shopping for contractors to install signal and communications systems.
The Inspector General said MTA Chairman Jay Walder has accepted the report’s findings and used them to tell the Office of Construction Oversight to get a firmer grip on spending and scheduling.
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