20 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • FEBRUARY 2019
LIRR TRAINS TO GRAND CENTRAL BOARDING IN 2022, MTA SAYS
continued from page 19
A Long Island Press reporter and
a photographer went underground
recently for a tour.
The tour begins with a brief walk
through the elegant Grand Central,
filled with commuters rushing to
work and others eating at the station’s
classy cafes. We proceed to a metal
door on the lower level.
As soon as the metal door opens,
the grandeur of Grand Central
quickly vanishes, replaced by subterranean
darkness, the pounding of
heavy machinery, dust, smoke, dim
lights, tracks, mud, and MTA tour
guides shouting to be heard above
the din of construction.
We are 140 feet below Park Avenue,
and what we see through the halflight
are clean slates of walls, made
of stone imported from Turkey and
Italy, and cut and molded in the U.S.
The underground complex doesn’t
look anywhere near finished, but the
MTA says the December 2022 is “set
in stone” and will be met.
We see tracks laden with mud. The
MTA used gigantic boring machines
to push through the bedrock, to build
eight tracks and four platforms.
There are escalators that look like
magnetized ski slopes, jutting down
90 feet to a concourse that will house
retail shops and a dining area.
“This is going to be a huge economic
benefit to Long Island commuters,”
says John Rizzo, the chief economist
for the Long Island Association. “It
will facilitate people’s ability to work
on the East Side and increase real-estate
values in Nassau County. ”
David Kapell, a consultant to the
LIA, who was also along for the tour,
noted the project will also offer LIRR
riders more options to quickly hop
trains to Westchester and New Jersey.
We walk up and down steps, ride
in a construction vehicle, and finally
come upon some muddy tracks and a
platform. One day, commuters will be
here, we are told.
This is a project decades in the
making. Planners began to talk about
it as long ago as the late 1950s. Plans
came and went. Initially, the entire
project’s cost was put at $3.2 billion.
The cost tripled, and is now pegged
at over $11 billion. Poor management
over the years, plus rising labor and
materials costs, are to blame.
Chris Jones, the Regional Plan
Association's senior vice president
and chief planner, said the initial time
and cost estimates should never have
been given wide credence.
"It was never going to be done as
first thought," Jones says. He noted
that the ESA project and the Second
Avenue Subway were the MTA's first
major projects in decades.
But, he says, the ESA "is a project
of major benefits. You start with the
amount of time it will save for thousands
of commuters." It is estimated
that it will relieve overcrowding at
Penn and create more capacity and
flexibility in the entire rail system.
Even now, there is some concern as
to whether the 2022 opening date will
be met. Mark Epstein, chairman of
the Long Island Rail Road Commuter
Council, says a survey of the project
— determining more precise costs
and a beginning date — has not been
done in a decade.
“I don’t think they MTA officials
know” full costs or when the project
will be done, Epstein says. “We have
been calling for a new study … It’s an
incredible project. But there are a lot
Aaron Donovan, an MTA spokesman,
says the agency regularly
performs "origin and destination"
surveys. The last was done in 2014.
No survey is currently underway.
"We are discussing the data-gathering
needed" for the project, he says.
Donovan adds that Janno Lieber,
whom Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently
appointed to oversee the ESA project,
"has taken a careful look at the ongoing
construction and is satisfied that
all is going well, that we're past the
halfway point, and all will be completed
"There are a lot of unknowns,”
says Mark Epstein, LIRR Commuter Council chairman.
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