A long-delayed project linking the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal will be finished by 2022, the head of the MTA agency overseeing the $11.2 billion effort said on Wednesday.
MTA chief development officer Janno Lieber said he told the East Side Access project team there’s “no more messing around with the delivery date.”
Lieber made his comments in a speech Wednesday to business and political leaders at a meeting of the Long Island Association in Melville.
His vow to bring the project to completion by December 2022 came weeks after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced another related $1 billion cost overrun.
Lieber said that “2022 is absolutely written in stone.”
Nearly two decades after the MTA first proposed the plan to bore tunnels to a new Manhattan terminal for the LIRR at Grand Central, the agency repeatedly has pushed back the completion date for East Side Access, which was once expected to be finished by 2009.
Lieber, who took over the project last year, recently announced it would take another $1 billion to finish it. The project is about 70 percent complete. Lieber has attributed much of the project’s recent challenges to what he says is Amtrak’s lack of promised cooperation at a critical work site in Queens.
Amtrak has said its ability to help has been hampered by other construction projects its employees are working on in the region.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who attended the meeting, said he had faith the MTA would keep its promise to finish by 2022 — saying it will be “a huge year for Long Island.”
“For the first time in East Side Access, I’m actually 100 percent confident in the timeline that’s being presented,” Bellone said.
At the meeting, Lieber, who was accompanied by new LIRR president Phillip Eng, also discussed several other major infrastructure projects underway to modernize and expand the LIRR. Among expansion plans are the Double Track project between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma that’s set for completion in August, and a plan to build a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville. Construction for the $2 billion project is expected to begin this fall.
Lieber said the MTA plans to revamp its third-track project website, amodernli.com, to include information about 100 different railroad projects that, combined, will increase the LIRR’s capacity by 50 percent and “change people’s lives.”
Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, a business and planning group, spoke of the importance of educating the public about the benefits of projects like East Side Access, which will not only improve commutes, but also raise property values.
“All they read about is this tunnel,” Law said. “They don’t have an appreciation for how important it is for Long Islanders, whether they use the train or not.”