The new Grand Central Madison train terminal is finally set to open to passengers Wednesday, bringing Long Island Rail Road service to the east side of Manhattan and putting the cherry on top of one of the largest, longest, and most expensive megaprojects in the city’s history.
The 750,000-square-foot terminal, situated 17 stories underneath Grand Central, is poised to boost train capacity on the LIRR by 40%.
But for its first three weeks, the MTA will only be running a 22-minute shuttle train service between Jamaica and Grand Central Madison, so that customers can, in the authority’s words, “acquaint themselves with the new terminal” before full LIRR service commences. The first passenger service train of the new era will depart Jamaica at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, traversing the new East River tunnels before arriving at Grand Central Madison at 11:07.
The “Grand Central Direct” shuttle service will operate between 6:15 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends, the MTA says. Trains will run every half hour in both directions on weekends and during midday hours on weekdays, while peak-period trains will arrive hourly. Schedules can be found on the MTA’s website and its TrainTime app.
Shuttle customers will be greeted at the terminal by LIRR “customer ambassadors,” who will also offer information to riders on the new train hall, which sports eight tracks serving four platforms.
The opening is a decades-in-the-making moment for the MTA. The proposal to bring LIRR service to Grand Central actually predates the MTA’s existence, with transit wags first floating the idea in the early 1960s. Planning began in earnest in the 1990s and construction in the 2000s, but over the years the project became notorious for chronic mismanagement, frequent construction delays, and massive cost overruns.
In 2001, MTA honchos estimated the overall project, dubbed East Side Access, would cost $4.3 billion and take a decade to complete. Almost a quarter-century later, with the terminal finally opening, the project’s final cost is estimated at $11.6 billion, nearly thrice the original estimate.
When Janno Lieber, now the MTA’s chair and CEO, took charge at the agency’s construction arm in 2017, he promised to revitalize the infamous megaproject and pledged repeatedly that it would be done by the end of 2022. The MTA was still promising a 2022 opening as recently as November, but that pledge was snagged by a faulty fan imperiling the station’s ventilation systems and delaying official certification that the terminal was safe for service.