The new Grand Central Madison terminal for the Long Island Rail Road will still open by the end of 2022, the MTA promised Tuesday, with just a month before the new year and testing still underway.
Construction on the 750,000-square-foot 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 essentially complete for months, with everything from directional signage to fire alarms installed and ready to go.
But extensive testing is still underway to ensure that all systems at the new concourse — which will bring LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal and increase weekday service by 40% on the commuter railroad — are fully functional and safe for the tens of thousands of riders expected to pass through every day, leaving the official opening date up in the air.
Train crews have been learning how to operate in the new tunnel and concourse so they’re used to it by the time they’re moving passengers, while volunteers recently participated in a “wayfinding exercise” to see how navigable the new terminal actually is.
But the MTA is still in the midst of testing the station’s emergency air flow systems, and the terminal is still in need of formal approval from the Fire Marshal, said MTA Construction & Development president Jamie Torres-Springer at the MTA board’s commuter railroad committee on Tuesday.
“Given the complexity of the testing I’ve described and our commitment to keeping passengers safe, we don’t have an exact date to provide yet, but we are confident about opening service this year,” said Torres-Springer. “And we’re very optimistic about the benefits to our region that this massive new project will provide once it’s in service.”
After years of delays and massive cost overruns, in 2018 the MTA pledged that the $11 billion project would finally be completed by the end of 2022, a deadline to which Lieber and Gov. Kathy Hochul have rigidly stuck.
The hope for a timely opening was bolstered Monday when the Federal Railroad Administration granted the MTA a crucial waiver allowing passenger service to commence before the full installation of tech preventing overly-bulky Amtrak trains from entering the tunnel to Grand Central Madison. The waiver will allow the station to open without the full installation of “positive train control,” with the feds granting a temporary reprieve until Feb. 15, 2023 while requiring extensive further training and testing for LIRR and Amtrak train crews.