‘A new chapter’: Grand Central Madison finally opens as first LIRR train pulls into East Side terminal

The first Lengthy Island Rail Street train to Grand Central Terminal arrived deep underneath the East Side Wednesday morning — finally realizing a decades-long dream to carry the LIRR to the transit hub and signaling a “new chapter” for transit within the New York area.

The “Grand Central Direct” shuttle train left Jamaica, Queens at 10:46 a.m. on Jan. 25, carrying Governor Kathy Hochul, MTA Chair Janno Lieber and 900 different commuters, MTA officers, and railfans hoping to catch the historic trip.

Traversing the railroad’s tunnel underneath the East River, the train pulled into Grand Central Madison terminal, some 17 tales under Manhattan, 21 minutes later at 11:07.

Grand Central Terminal
Atop the MTA’s longest escalator at Grand Central Madison.Picture by Paul Frangipane

“My message to New York is come, see this amazing new facility,” Lieber instructed reporters after ascending with Hochul from the train platform, on certainly one of New York’s longest escalators. “We love Grand Central, it is the Temple of Mass Transit. And now it has a new chapter.”

The 714,000-square-foot, 1,000-foot-long terminal, immediately under Grand Central, is the first main new passenger train terminal in the US in 67 years, Hochul mentioned, and the first main growth of the LIRR in additional than a century.

For its first few weeks, Grand Central Madison will solely host the shuttle to and from Jamaica, meant to permit riders to get acquainted with the new terminal. Within the coming weeks, although, when schedules are finalized, the terminal will allow a 40% enhance in train capability on the LIRR, and shave about 30-40 minutes off the commutes of Lengthy Islanders heading to the East Side — who presently need to go all the best way to Penn Station solely to schlep again east to get to work.

Governor Kathy Hochul and MTA Chair Janno Lieber celebrate the opening of Grand Central Madison.Photo by Paul Frangipane

“For our commuters, the people we represent, the ones we care the most about, we are giving them something that’s valuable. We’re giving them time again of their lives,” mentioned Hochul. “As a mom, I know extra 30-40 minutes to be back with your kids, helping them pack the lunches, do the homework at the end of the day, maybe even taking care of yourself a little bit. This is all a gift.”

The challenge additionally facilitates a extra seamlessly built-in rail community all through the New York metropolitan space: now, somebody touring from Lengthy Island to Westchester County might take an LIRR train to Grand Central and switch in the identical facility to a Metro-North train, as an alternative of mountain climbing it from Penn Station to Grand Central.

Work is currently underway on one other megaproject to carry the identical capabilities to Penn Station: Developing new Metro-North stations within the Bronx and bringing that commuter railroad into the West Side terminus.

Commuters can use NYC’s longest escalator for “meditation,” Governor Hochul mentioned.Picture by Paul Frangipane

Making the most of that integration, the MTA is selling its newly 24/7 “City Ticket,” charging riders $5 to journey between commuter rail stations located in New York Metropolis, even when the journey entails a switch between the LIRR and Metro-North at Grand Central.

Riders touring outdoors the 5 boroughs can use a “Combo Ticket,” including $8 to the bottom fare to switch between commuter rail strains and journey all through the metropolitan space.

“I think it’s great that we’re expanding our transit network,” mentioned Sterling Tejada, a Brooklyn resident marveling on the new terminal Wednesday morning. “It will benefit so many riders, especially those from Long Island. They will actually save time, they wouldn’t really have to transfer to a subway to get to the east side, so this cuts time. This is a really good investment.”

The governor mentioned her Wednesday morning trip went fairly easy, however the street to this second was something however.

The ticketing booths and schedule screen at Grand Central Madison.Photo by Paul Frangipane

“It was quite a journey to get here. I’m not speaking concerning the 22-minute trip from Jamaica station. I’m actually speaking about one thing that began underneath eight of my predecessor governors,” Hochul mentioned. “It’s been nine governors who’ve worked to try to get this accomplished. People lived and died never seeing this come to fruition, until now, until this very moment.”

Transit wags first floated bringing the LIRR to the East Side manner again in 1963, earlier than the MTA even existed. A new tunnel underneath the East River was accomplished in 1972 however, with the town’s fiscal well being on the brink, civic leaders deserted the challenge and it lay dormant for almost three a long time.

The challenge was revived within the Nineteen Nineties, with plans to attach the tunnel to the LIRR right-of-way and Grand Central, and in 2001 MTA officers estimated it will be full by 2011 at a price of $4.3 billion. However the megaproject became something of a mega-boondoggle, affected by continual mismanagement, frequent building delays, and large price overruns underneath quite a few leaders in authorities and on the MTA.

The ultimate price ticket, greater than a decade late, sits at round $11.6 billion, one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in American history.

Grand Central Madison’s lower-level concourse.Picture by Paul Frangipane

As a few of the state’s strongest officers, each Hochul and Lieber to an extent took possession for the challenge’s chaos as it finally got here to fruition. However even moreso, the 2 spoke of each other as political soulmates of types, introduced collectively by future to revive order to a large number of legendary proportions.

When Lieber took the helm of the MTA’s building division in 2017, he mentioned, authorities officers he spoke with “said to me, in my early days at the MTA, ‘don’t waste your time, don’t sully your reputation by becoming too associated with East Side Access.’”

Lieber ignored them: he “tore the project apart and put it back together again,” and pledged repeatedly to get it achieved by the top of 2022 (he mentioned a “grace period” of three weeks was warranted, after opening plans have been snagged by a faulty fan posing points for the terminal’s air flow).

Lieber mentioned that “core lessons” had been discovered from East Side Entry that the MTA has already internalized for its present and future megaprojects, from the Second Avenue Subway to revitalizing Penn Station, to creating all the subway system accessible for these with disabilities.

The new terminal sports eight tracks serving four island platforms deep underground.Photo by Paul Frangipane

They include: don’t “balkanize” work into dozens of separate, oft-overlapping contracts, and as an alternative make the most of “design-build” to consolidate work and create accountability; have a “totally detailed schedule” itemizing each piece of labor that wants doing; and don’t be afraid of painful however non permanent service shutdowns to rapidly full work on tasks enhancing service long-term.

The governor, who introduced Lieber on as chair and CEO full-time final yr, had a less complicated takeaway: “bring in Janno Lieber a lot earlier.”

Removed from being a laughingstock, the pair mentioned that present and future megaprojects will probably be seen as a global mannequin of environment friendly capital work in a dense city core. Pressed by amNewYork Metro, Hochul mentioned New Yorkers can anticipate to be driving one of the formidable tasks she’s championed — the Interborough Specific, a new gentle rail line connecting Brooklyn and Queens — on a a lot speedier and extra cost-efficient timeline.

“Twenty-five years from now we’ll say, ‘we’ve been riding [the IBX] for a long time,’” mentioned the governor. “Is it a major project? Yes. Is it going to cost money? Yes. Am I afraid to lean into it and make commitments? No! This is what we do, this is how we change the trajectory of this state. We identify projects that improve people’s lives, make it easier to be a New Yorker. That’s what this is all about.”

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