The MTA has formally handed operational control of Grand Central Madison over to the Long Island Rail Road, signaling the arduous road to opening day for the long-delayed new terminal is near.
The LIRR assumes control of the 750,000-square-foot station complex from MTA Construction & Development, which oversaw the build-out of the hub which will bring LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal and the east side of Manhattan. The transfer took place at noon on Friday, Dec. 9, the MTA says, and was overseen by the Federal Railroad Administration.
“Today’s announcement means that Grand Central Madison is formally changing from a construction site to a railroad terminal,” said LIRR and Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi in a statement. “This is a historic, major milestone for the project. The LIRR is delighted to have received this extraordinary, nearly completed new train terminal and railroad staff are looking forward to safely beginning train service for customers.”
The terminal is still not quite ready to open, transit honchos say: Contractors remain on-site testing the station’s air flow and life support systems, along with its escalators and elevators.
Construction of the terminal — and the 3.5 miles of new tunnels under the East River and Midtown Manhattan connecting the LIRR to the east side of Manhattan — has been complete for months.
Grand Central Madison, known as East Side Access during development, is expected to boost LIRR service by 40%, bringing up to 936 trains onto the rails each weekday compared to the current 667.
It will also allow for continuity of service for LIRR riders as the MTA sequentially takes its existing East River tunnels to Penn Station out of service, to facilitate construction on the Penn Access project. That project will bring Metro-North trains to Penn Station and will see the construction of four new stations on the New Haven Line in the Bronx; work on the new stations broke ground at Hunts Point this weekend.
East Side Access has been in the works in some form since the 1990s, and through the past 25 years has seen innumerable delays and cost overruns. The 2001 cost estimate of $3.5 billion has ballooned to more than $11 billion today — one of the costliest rail infrastructure projects in American history.