(The Center Square) – Crews in New York City have completed “civil construction” on the East Side Access project, an $11 billion endeavor to build a 350,000-square-foot passenger station beneath Grand Central Terminal to allow the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to enter the complex.
Officials contend the project, initially conceived in the 1960s, is the largest train terminal built nationwide since the 1950s and the first expansion of the LIRR in more than a century.
“East Side Access is one of North America’s largest transportation projects – an audacious $11 billion idea changing the entire regional transportation system,” embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release.
The project, which officials say will relieve congestion at Penn Station, includes more than 40 miles of new track and nearly 13 miles of newly excavated tunnels. In Queens, crews built a new rail yard with a capacity for 300 rail cars.
The project also modernized Harold Interlocking in Queens, which officials say is North America’s “busiest passenger railroad intersection,” installing 97 new switches, 295 poles for Amtrak train overhead wires and five new steel railroad bridges. The Harold Interlocking work will benefit travelers on the busy Washington-to-Boston Northeast Corridor, officials say.
“In the past, when challenges were encountered, the answer was to push back the project completion date,” Janno Lieber, president of MTA Construction & Development, said in a news release.
“We put an end to that and committed this project would be completed in 2022 as had been promised,” Lieber added. This “announcement is an affirmation that our approach is working.”
Work on the project began “in earnest” in 2006, according to a news release. It was originally projected to cost roughly $3.5 billion, PIX11.com reported.
East Side Access is scheduled to open up next year, but officials said they plan to start testing trains this summer. The project will double the LIRR’s capacity into Manhattan, according to a news release.
“I’ve been through a lot of difficult infrastructure projects during my time in government, and while this project may have been one the most difficult to get accomplished, its completion will have a huge impact on New York’s economy and vibrancy for generations to come and serve as yet another example of what New Yorkers can do when we put our minds to something,” Cuomo, a Democrat, added.