It looks like a million dollars! But it costs 11,000 times more.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday unveiled its sprawling new $11 billion Grand Central Madison terminal, which will finally connect the Long Island Rail Road to Manhattan’s east side — one of the world’s most expensive and delayed transit projects.
“It’s been quite a journey to get here,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said at the unveiling after riding the first train into the new hall.
The gleaming, white-marble-lined commuter subway hub beneath Grand Central is more than a decade late and some estimates are some $9 billion over budget. It’s also being used in a world turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, with many of the drivers it was designed for working from home several days a week.
“I’m literally talking about something that started under eight of my previous governors,” Hochul added. “People lived and died without seeing this come to fruition – until now, until this moment.”
The first service will operate approximately every half hour between LIRR’s Jamaica hub in Queens and the new concourse now officially known as Grand Central Madison.
Officials say the shuttle will run for at least three weeks before the new full schedule for service to Manhattan’s East Side is rolled out.
“This project is about quality of life and giving back to New Yorkers in their everyday lives,” said MTA Chairman Janno Lieber. “We are here, just a few weeks away from the full service that will dramatically improve and transform transportation in the region.”
He added, “This project brings Long Island closer to the heart of New York City.”
The station was originally scheduled to open before the end of 2022, but the 14-year-delayed project was delayed again by a month because a fire-fighting system required a malfunctioning ventilation system.
At the bottom of the hole
Located 140 feet underground, Grand Central Madison’s eight platforms have been dug into a cave large enough to house a crane.
It took a Post reporter more than seven minutes to make the journey from the new LIRR platforms to the 4/5/6 trains — at a brisk pace and while climbing the escalators instead of just riding them.
The platforms are deep enough that passengers can hear the incessant PA announcements — station opening announcements, safety warnings to stay away from platform edges, subway transfers, date and time — echoing through the deep shafts that line the 182 foot long escalators hold. which riders advance to the main level.
The ride takes an estimated 90 seconds, which Hochul jokingly suggested for “meditation” when asked about it.
This hall is so massive that it stretches further than the eye can see — stretching about six blocks, or about 1,600 feet long, officials say.
It eventually connects to another set of stairs or elevators that take you to the dining room of historic Grand Central on the lower level at the opposite end of Central Station and to another set of escalators from the Lexington Avenue subway station.
Lane winners – and losers
These new schedules have become a point of contention. The MTA says some Long Island commuters heading to Manhattan can commute up to 40 minutes less.
“For our commuters, the people we represent and care about most, we’re giving them something precious — we’re giving them time back in their lives,” Hochul said. “Think of the people of Long Island and also of Queens — eastern Queens, vibrant communities — where you have to take the bus to the subway.”
And Hochul said she hopes a shiny new terminal and shorter commutes would give companies extra incentive to lure workers back to their Midtown desks.
However, officials have acknowledged that some of those savings will be offset by increased transfer times due to the size of the new station.
Other LIRR riders commuting to Brooklyn or downtown Manhattan — the stated goal of nearly a quarter of the railroad’s passengers in an MTA survey — could now be forced to make an additional transfer or double-return from Midtown.
The LIRR’s proposed schedules would erode much of the current connection to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal, which offers convenient subway service to downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan, and relocate trains to Grand Central.
Officials are proposing replacing the service with a new shuttle between Atlantic and Jamaica, but that would mean one more connection for many riders, which has left them frustrated.
All in the name
The MTA said it chose the name Grand Central Madison to better geographically connect the new service to the famous train concourse above it — and an apparent attempt to use some Grand Central grandeur to blur memories of how horribly wrong that was project has run.
Newspaper reports and independent research have revealed that the project was plagued by excessive design requirements, political interference, mismanagement, infighting with Amtrak, and a cozy relationship between contractors and unions, both major players in Albany.
Pound for pound it is the world’s most expensive railway project ever built.
A 2019 Post investigation found that East Side Access had consumed massive amounts of the MTA budget, which could have funded overhauls of the subway system’s legacy signaling system now underway.
Officials repeatedly announced on Wednesday that the project would increase the capacity of the LIRR by an estimated 40 percent.
However, the MTA will struggle to take advantage of the new and expensive infrastructure due to the extraordinary inefficiencies and wasteful employment contracts at the LIRR, a Post investigation released earlier this month found.
A “rocky” path
Long Island governors and politicians have dreamed of bringing the LIRR to Midtown’s east side for generations.
It was one of the key proposals of Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s ambitious transit dreams in the 1960s, which led in part to the creation of the MTA itself.
Construction of the 63rd Street Tunnel, connecting the new terminal to Queens train stations, began before the Big Apple’s financial collapse in the mid-1970s and was eventually completed in the late 1980s.
Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Senator Al D’Amato took the baton and made East Side Access one of their top transit priorities in 1997, when the price was supposed to be just $2.1 billion.
But the project has become a white elephant amid rampant delays and mounting costs.
Just two years later, in 1999, the price had already doubled to $4.3 billion and the opening date was 2009. But construction didn’t start until 2006, just before Pataki left office.
By 2012, the price had risen again to over $8 billion, and the expected completion was now 2019 — a decade late.
In 2018, the MTA conceded that the price would reach $11.2 billion, and Lieber, the then-newly appointed chief of construction, set a tough deadline of 2022 for that to happen.
“The project was a hot mess,” he said. “But you know what? We delivered.”
https://nypost.com/2023/01/25/nyc-finally-unveils-11b-train-station-offering-some-lirr-riders-a-shorter-commute-to-manhattan/ NYC finally unveils an $11 billion train station offering a shorter ride to Manhattan for some LIRR riders