East Side Access

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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.

More on East Side Access

Feb 12, 2019 In The News

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and community leaders urging the MTA to to fund the proposed Sunnyside LIRR station. (via Maloney’s office)

Feb 11, 2019 In The News

U.S. Rep. Carolyn M. Maloney stands with community leaders and residents in long island city to call on the state to fund a proposed train station in Sunnyside yards. Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney’s office.

Feb 11, 2019 In The News

Sheila Lewandowski, center, Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) and other community activists make a plea for Sunnyside Yards in New York as a part of the MTA's East Side Access plan. Photo Credit: Newsday/Howard Simmons

Sep 12, 2016 Press Release

WASHINGTON – During Thursday’s hearing of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), Ranking Democrat Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) called for a balanced approach to the federal budget, including both policies to deal with long-term drivers of the debt and policies to lay the groundwork for economic growth.

Jan 15, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) today released the following statement in support of the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

“This legislation offers a substantial improvement in how we fund our nation’s priorities. I commend Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey for their success in finding the compromise necessary to avert another government shutdown."

Jan 14, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) today lauded a decision by Congressional negotiators to fully fund both the East Side Access (ESA) and Second Avenue Subway (SAS) projects in the omnibus appropriations bill that is expected to be approved later this week. New York will receive $215 million for the ESA and $14.6 million for the SAS. Both figures reflect the funding levels requested by the Obama Administration. For SAS, the funding represents the last remaining installment due from the federal government under the full funding grant agreement signed between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Jul 27, 2012 Press Release

New York, NY – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) celebrated the news this week that tunnel-boring had been completed on the East Side Access project, which will connect Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Grand Central Terminal, and is the largest mass transit initiative under construction anywhere in the United States. 

Jun 19, 2012 Press Release

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) today hailed the inclusion of $123,384,621 for the Second Avenue Subway and $215,000,000 for the East Side Access project connecting Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal in the House Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (THUD) appropriation proposed for Fiscal Year 2013, which was presented to the House Appropriations Committee today. Both figures reflect the amounts requested for each project by the Obama administration in its proposed FY ’13 budget.

Feb 13, 2012 Press Release

New York, NY – U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) today hailed the inclusion in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal of $123 million for the Second Avenue Subway and $215 million for East Side Access.  Maloney has fought for years to secure federal funding for both transit projects, which are among the largest in the country and are located almost entirely in New York’s 14th Congressional District, which Maloney represents.