us-LIRR Grand Central Madison East Side Access opening-MTA (2)

USA: Long Island Rail Road opened its Grand Central Madison deep-level station beneath New York’s famous Grand Central Terminal on January 25. The first train to reach the station left LIRR’s Jamaica hub in Queens at 10.45 and arrived at 11.07.

us-Grand Central Madison opening

New York Governor Kathy Hochul and MTA Chair Janno Lieber alighting from the first train to Grand Central Madison.

Grand Central Madison is the centrepiece of the long-running $11bn East Side Access programme, aimed at improving access to Midtown Manhattan for LIRR passengers; the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority commuter rail agency took over management of the station site from MTA Construction & Development on December 11.

us-Grand Central Madison opening-3

LIRR is initially operating a standalone shuttle service between Grand Central Madison and Jamaica while the newly completed infrastructure beds in; through services to the rest of Long Island are expected to start in the coming weeks.

Covering 7 ha in total, Grand Central Madison reaches 15 storeys below the historic main concourse at GCT, which is served by MTA’s other commuter rail agency, Metro-North. A new passenger concourse has been built just below street level to serve the LIRR station. According to MTA, this is the largest passenger facility to be built in the USA since the mid-1950s. From this concourse, no fewer than 17 escalators, each 55 m long, and 22 lifts will take passengers to and from a mezzanine level far below, from where they will access the upper and lower ‘train decks’.

us-Grand Central Madison opening-2

These house eight platform faces in two adjacent twin-deck caverns, giving the capacity to handle up to 24 trains/h at peak times. In total, the project has required 5∙6 route-km of new alignment, electrified at 750 V DC using a third rail. The route incorporates two single-track tubes beneath the East River that were built in the 1960s in conjunction with a Subway expansion project but never fitted out.

Construction of the caverns began in 2006, but the ESA programme was beset by construction challenges and delays, partly caused by difficult ground conditions beneath the city centre. These required extensive use of drill and blast excavation.

Other key elements of ESA have included the construction of turnback tracks south of Grand Central Madison beneath 37th Street, and a Midday Storage Yard at Sunnyside in Queens with capacity to stable around 300 EMU cars. Programme manager was URS Corp, supported by Lead Tunnel & Station Contractor Dragados USA-Judlau.

Alongside the completion of a triple-tracking programme on Long Island itself, ESA is expected to increase LIRR capacity by around 40%, MTA says. In addition, capacity released by LIRR at Penn Station is to be used to allow Metro-North trains to serve the hub under the Penn Station Access programme, for which a groundbreaking ceremony was held on December 9. This will see four intermediate stations built on Amtrak’s Hell Gate line to serve communities in the Bronx.

‘Grand Central Madison is a game changer for New Yorkers, and I look forward to welcoming Long Island commuters to our tremendous new terminal’, said New York State Governor Kathy Hochul after she alighted from the inaugural train. ‘Infrastructure is all about connections, and this project is an extraordinary step forward to better connect millions of New Yorkers with their homes, their families and their jobs.’

‘What we are opening today is truly breathtaking’, added MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber. ‘The eight tracks, four platforms and 66 000 m2 of space at Grand Central Madison are only the most visible part of a project that also includes 64 km of new track, 96 new switches, 880 km of cables, 2 500 m of retaining walls, five new railroad bridges, 296 new catenary poles and 51 signal towers. Together with the successful Third Track project and L Train rehab, what was accomplished since the 2018 overhaul of East Side Access proves the MTA is a megaproject leader.’