East Side Access
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) proposes to build a new rail link to provide direct access for LIRR riders to Grand Central Terminal. The project would bring approximately 160,000 new passengers, including 5,000 residents of Western Queens, into Grand Central Station. I have been a strong supporter of the East Side Access project, and have worked with my colleagues to procure Congressional earmarks for the project.
© Metropolitan Transportation Authority While Congresswoman Maloney supports the project generally, she believes that the MTA is making a serious mistake in altering its original proposal and concentrating certain mechanical operations in a 153 foot building on East 49-50th Streets (see below).
Why East Side Access is Needed
Current Modes of Transportation Overcapacity The LIRR, the bus and subway system and the highways are all at or near capacity at rush hour. Congestion leads to increased commuting times and greater difficulties getting to work, which, in turn, compromises New York City’s job base (and Long Island’s residential base). Penn Station is already at capacity. The increase in commuters is expected to push trains coming into Penn Station to 127% of capacity. Employment Growth Manhattan has experienced a tremendous growth in new office space since World War II – nearly 213 million square feet with 62% of that new building happening in East Midtown (nearly 132 million square feet). At the same time, more people who work in Manhattan are living in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Employment in Manhattan is projected to grow 21% by 2020, with the size of the labor force living in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens expected to increase by 28% during that period. 60% of the 260,000 daily Long Island commuters work on the East Side. (LI Business News, July 21, 1997) Excessive Commuting Time LIRR trains enter Manhattan on the East Side through the East River Tunnels at 33rd Street, but passengers cannot disembark until they reach Penn Station on the West Side. They must then double back to reach their destinations on the East Side, adding 15-30 minutes each day to their commutes. Redundancy After 9/11, the MTA issued a report stating “It was clearly the flexibility and capacity of the subway system in Lower Manhattan that helped the MTA through this ordeal. That makes more critical than ever the two important system capacity expansion projects (East Side Access and Second Avenue Subway). (See NY Times, Dec 23, 2001 – Pushing to Speed Up East Side Rail Link by Stewart Ain). The report also says: “The tragedy of Sept 11 has taught the MTA a critical lesson that will guide its longer-term transportation strategies for decades to come. Had the MTA been directly affected at either of its two rail stations (Penn Station or Grand Central) or on the sole subway line on the East Side of Manhattan, its ability to evacuate over 500,000 commuter rail customers who live east or north of Manhattan and another 700,000 who take the subway on the East Side of Manhattan would have been severely diminished.” (See Newsday, Oct 21, 2001 – Stop and Go: A Weekly Giude to the Roads & Rails on Long Island: Report: Attacks Take $4 billion toll on MTA)
Impact on Queens
East Side Access is expected to provide new service to residents of Western Queens, as well as to commuters who are trying to reach the growing Long Island City business district. The new Sunnyside Station would be located on the west side of the Queens Boulevard bridge, near Skillman Avenue.
- 2002, Construction begins
- 2002, FTA gives permission to begin final design.
- The final Environmental Impact Statement was released March 2001
- The Federal Transit Administration issued a Record of Decision in May 2001 allowing construction of East Side Access to begin.
- Public review of the DEIS began on May 17, 2000 when it was published and distributed. A public hearing was held June 15, 2000. The public comment period was held open until July 12, 2000, but comments were accepted until December 1, 2000.
- NYMTC identified a locally preferred alternative on June 25, 1998 (Res No. 94A).
- The preferred alternative was to provide LIRR service through Sunnyside to Grand Central Terminal via the lower level of the 63rd Street tunnel.
- Analysis of the environmental impact of East Side Access began in 1995. The Notice of Intent was published and the public scoping process was performed. Three public hearings were held in July 1995.
- The East Side Access Project is currently excavating tunnels approximately 120 feet beneath Manhattan streets. At the end of November 2009 all of the upper tunnel drives were completed. By 2011, all the Manhattan tunnels will be mined.