For those in the New York area who commute into Manhattan, the talk of the opening of the East Side access starts off as exciting news and often ends with skepticism. Finally, there’s been an update and a hard deadline for the long-delayed project that links the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Grand Central Terminal.
Here it is: MTA chief development officer Janno Lieber said that the $11.2 billion project will be ready by December 2022.
The East Side Access project team has been told that there will be there’s “no more messing around with the delivery date.” Business and political leaders attending a meeting of the Long Island Association in Melville were on hand to hear the promise.
Pressure is mounting as the MTA recently announced that there is a $1 billion cost overrun and that the agency will need an additional $1 billion to complete. (OUCH!) This project has been going on for about 20 years, when way back when, the MTA first proposed the plan to bore tunnels to a new Manhattan terminal for the LIRR at Grand Central. The launch announcement said that the project would be completed by 2009. (Yup, 9 years ago!)
Blame it on the blame game, but Lieber says it’s Amtrak’s fault that the project is only 70% complete. It seems that Amtrak promised cooperation at a work site in Queens and the MTA just didn’t get it. Amtrak in response says that it has a lot going on and has been hampered by other construction projects its employees are working on in the region.
Lieber also said the MTA plans to revamp its third-track project website, amodernli.com. The site will include information about 100 different railroad that are estimated to increase the LIRR’s capacity by 50 percent.
Some have reason to be optimistic and LIRR president Phillip Eng is most likely under significant pressure too. Especially with so many delays in recent years and several other major infrastructure projects underway that hope to modernize and expand the current system.
There’s the Double Track project between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma that’s set for completion in August. Also, you might have heard about a plan to build a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville. The project will begin this fall and cost about $2 billion.
Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, a business and planning group, also commented at the meeting, saying that the public needs to know about these projects. We have to agree, the upgrades will not only benefit commuters, but people’s property value.
The question for most Long Islanders is: Will it ever happen? Because for those of use who work on Manhattan’s East Side, 2022 can’t come soon enough!