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East Side Access tunnels enter next phase

Action in Albany will enable continuation of construction

Action in Albany will enable continuation of construction of the East Side Access tunnel to bring LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal. (Jan. 28, 2010) Credit: Craig Ruttle

The new tunnels that will bring Long Island Rail Road commuters to a new Manhattan terminal will begin to get their finishing touches this fall, MTA officials said Monday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that it had awarded the first of three contracts to construct the concrete lining, interior structures walls and other finishing details of the new tunnels and caverns as part of the ongoing East Side Access project.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the $200-million contract, awarded to Michels Corp. of Brownsville, Wis., will begin the work of smoothing out the jagged, "unfinished, cavelike space" from Queens to Grand Central Terminal. The work will begin in October and is expected to last about 29 months, Donovan said.

"The tunnel boring machines have come through and created the tunnels. The blasters have come through and blasted out the tunnels," Donovan said. "This is now the next step as we begin to see this massive railroad terminal come into being."

The entire $8.76-billion East Side Access project is pegged for completion in 2019. The direct link to Grand Central will save LIRR commuters up to 40 minutes a day in travel time, round-trip on all branches, according to the MTA.

Supporters say the project will increase property values for 400,000 Long Island homeowners, create hundreds of thousands more potential commuters and give boosts to economic development initiatives, including Wyandanch Rising and planned transit hubs in Ronkonkoma and East Farmingdale.

"We're pleased to be entering this phase of construction for East Side Access in Manhattan," said Michael Horodniceanu, president of MTA Capital Construction. "This contract begins the construction on the interior work that 160,000 weekday LIRR customers will experience when the new LIRR station terminal opens below Grand Central."

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