The $11.1 billion East Side Access project under construction.

The $11.1 billion East Side Access project under construction. Credit: Craig Ruttle

The Long Island Rail Road has cleared another hurdle to opening Grand Central Madison, as it has met federal safety requirements involving potential collisions inside the new tunnels.

Federal Railroad Administration spokesperson Cory Gattie said Thursday that the LIRR had completed the installation of federally mandated safety systems on all trains that will serve Grand Central Madison.

In October, the LIRR sent a letter to the FRA requesting a temporary waiver from the requirement that its train signal system be equipped with “hazard detectors” that would prevent an oversized train from crashing into one of the newly dug East Side Access tunnels.

In its request to the FRA, the LIRR said it already has “significant hazard detection and/or enforcement” technology to prevent such accidents. But it expected that the addition of required software into the LIRR's federally mandated "positive train control" system “will not be completed until after commencement” of the new service to Grand Central.

The new station was originally scheduled to open last month, but has been delayed because of issues with its ventilation system. MTA chairman Janno Lieber earlier this month wouldn't put a date on the opening but said the railroad was making progress.

In November, the FRA granted the temporary waiver giving the LIRR until Feb. 15 to install the needed technology.

LIRR spokespersons declined to comment Friday.

The FRA said it is still evaluating plans to ensure that the railroad’s positive train control system will also protect Amtrak trains, which share some tracks with the LIRR. Per the conditions of the waiver, Amtrak trains must stay away from the tunnels until the issue is resolved.

The $11.1 billion East Side Access megaproject aims to give the LIRR a second Manhattan home — shortening the commute of those who work on the East Side, and giving the railroad a second route onto and off Long Island in an emergency.

The project, which was once expected to be finished by 2009, has been beset with delays and complications since construction began in 2007.

The railroad’s interim president recently acknowledged that the LIRR does not have the equipment it needs to tow a disabled train out of the new tunnels in an emergency. She said the issue would not impact the opening of the station, and that procedures are in place to safely evacuate passengers out of a disabled train in an emergency.

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