The MTA hopes to start LIRR service into Grand Central...

The MTA hopes to start LIRR service into Grand Central Terminal in January. Credit: Craig Ruttle

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will miss its own year-end deadline for Long Island Rail Road trains to begin stopping at Grand Central Terminal, the agency conceded Thursday afternoon.

The agency now says it hopes to start service sometime in January at the new part of the terminal, known as Grand Central Madison, the culmination of the long-running and long-stalled East Side Access project.

In a prepared statement, MTA Construction and Development president Jamie Torres-Springer said: “As was described at the MTA Board meeting last week, the opening of Grand Central Madison and Long Island Rail Road GCM service is contingent on the conclusion of system testing, in line with our commitment to safety. One particular zone in the 700,000 square-foot terminal requires additional work that will take more than a few days."

The statement added: "Given the logistics of concluding testing and launching service, we have advised MTA Chair Janno Lieber that the terminal will not open this week. We will coordinate with the Federal Railroad Administration to open the new Terminal and commence LIRR service as soon as possible in January.”

Lieber had repeatedly promised the opening before the end of December.

The project, which cost $11.1 billion and was greenlit in 1998 with construction beginning in 2001, is expected to lead to a boost of about 50% in LIRR rush hour service — but also a "significant" reduction of LIRR morning service into Penn Station, the agency has said.

The MTA has said that the public would get at least three weeks' notice before the full-scale launch of Grand Central Madison, whose debut will mean a major overhaul of the train schedules for all passengers. 

Earlier this month, the MTA announced plans to start running limited LIRR shuttle service between Jamaica Terminal and Grand Central Madison, some time this month, before the full opening. Shuttle trains would operate chiefly during off-peak hours.

As of Thursday night, the MTA's website still listed December 2022 as the project's date of "Completion" or when "LIRR service to Grand Central Madison will open to the public."

In the spring, Gov. Kathy Hochul, who oversees the MTA, said the then-expected December opening of the station would give Long Island commuters "a world-class experience that is long overdue" and also "the gift of time" by trimming up to 40 minutes off the daily commute of passengers who work on Manhattan's East Side. She said: "I can't wait to take the first ride."

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