The East Side Access project, with a projected total cost of $7.3 billion and an expected completion date of 2016, will connect the Long Island Rail Road's Main and Port Washington lines to a new terminal beneath Grand Central in Manhattan. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the project will "dramatically shorten" trips to the East Side of Manhattan from Long Island and eastern Queens, which now require transfers at Penn Station.

The project would fulfill a 40-year-old promise by state officials, and is a major engineering feat. New tunneling in Queens stretches 7 miles from the Sunnyside rail yard to the lower level of the existing 63rd Street tunnel under the East River. The project is excavating tunnels about 120 feet beneath street level in Manhattan. Three of eight planned tunnels in Manhattan have been completed and all are set to be finished by 2010.

When the project is finished, LIRR trains will arrive at a new station 14 stories below street level and about 90 feet below the lower-level Metro North tracks at Grand Central. Passengers will take escalators up to a new concourse at Grand Central's lower level.

The state and federal governments have committed to funding the project, but the MTA must come up with a final $1.8 billion in its 2010-14 capital program.

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