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MTA: New cost, end date planned for LIRR Grand Central link

The East Side Access project is connecting the

The East Side Access project is connecting the LIRR to a new passenger concourse underneath Grand Central Terminal. This photo shows an update on the status of construction on the Manhattan side of the project, as of June 2013. Credit: MTA / Patrick Cashin

The MTA's beleaguered East Side Access project to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal could get a new estimated completion date and budget in coming months, officials said Monday.

After repeatedly blowing estimates, in January the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it would only commit to a range of possible costs and completion dates for East Side Access, compiling its own estimates and those from independent consultants and the Federal Transit Administration. The cost range was $9.7 billion to $10.8 billion, and the range for the completion date was September 2021 to September 2023.

But MTA chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said the agency is working on "one schedule, one cost" for the project, once budgeted at $4.3 billion. But the agency will take its time to get the numbers right, he said.

"We cannot afford to re-baseline it again, only to find it being outside of what those parameters were within a year or two," Prendergast said at a Manhattan MTA meeting. "We need to get to a point to where we deliver this project. Sunken money alone dictates that."

Executive William Goodrich, newly appointed to oversee East Side Access, said the MTA has committed $6.49 billion to the project, and spent $4.8 billion -- about half its lowest cost estimate. When completed, the project aims to save 160,000 LIRR customers up to 40 minutes a day in their commute.

MTA board member Mark Lebow told Prendergast at the meeting that, while he understood the reluctance to name a specific project cost and completion date, it should do so promptly.

"Otherwise, you give the impression that you do not know how much it's going to cost and you have no idea when it is going to be completed," Lebow said.

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