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East Side Access project expected to have major impact

Morning commuters fill a westbound train at the

Morning commuters fill a westbound train at the Huntington station of the Long Island Rail Road. (March 18, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Problem: Getting 166,000

Long Islanders to Manhattan's East Side

The Fix: A new train tunnel

to Grand Central Station.

In the next decade, the transit project that could most dramatically improve Long Islanders' commute to Manhattan is the East Side Access project, which will take 166,000 LIRR riders directly to Grand Central Terminal via a series of newly bored tunnels from Queens.

LIRR president Helena Williams described the $7.3-billion project, pegged for completion in 2016, as likely to have the most compelling impact of any transportation project for the Island in decades.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, a consortium of transit planners and providers, lists East Side Access as one of the four "foundation" projects of the next 25 years and says it will "dramatically shorten" the travel time for Long Islanders commuting to Manhattan's East Side by around 20 minutes.

The project also promises to ease crowding on trains to and from Penn Station, increase East River rail tunnel capacity, and take thousands of cars off the road, MTA officials say. The MTA Capital Construction project is funded by MTA, state and federal dollars and through bond sales.

By 2030, largely as a result of the access, the Long Island Rail Road expects to be running 331 trains to and from Grand Central each weekday - boosting the total number of LIRR trains being operated each day by nearly 48 percent.

The project even promises to change living patterns on Long Island and increase property values, as all of the LIRR's stations will serve as a "gateway to Manhattan like they've never been before," said Jeffrey Zupan, senior transportation fellow for the Regional Plan Association.

"I think that's probably the single biggest thing that's definitely going to happen," Zupan said.

The other three projects classified as "foundation" projects for the next 25 years are the No. 7 subway extension to Manhattan's west side (project completion date 2013), the Second Avenue Subway (2017); and the NJ Transit link to Penn Station (2017).

Most of the digging for the tunnel is already complete, but there is still plenty of work ahead - including the construction of a 10-block-long, 350,000-square-foot LIRR customer concourse at Grand Central.


Status: Completion date, 2016.


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