The much-anticipated arrival of Long Island Rail Road service in Grand Central is finally here — or at least a modified version of it.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced late Monday that LIRR service for its newest station, Grand Central Madison, will begin Wednesday. However, don’t expect to be able to simply take any train to the new station.
The MTA said LIRR will operate limited shuttle service from Jamaica to Grand Central Terminal for the first three weeks to help passengers become acquainted with the terminal, originally scheduled for 2022. That debut was delayed because safety system testing was ongoing, according to Jamie Torres-Springer, president of MTA’s design and development.
The first train to Grand Central on January 25 departs Jamaica at 10:45 am and is scheduled to arrive at the new terminal on Manhattan’s East Side at 11:07 am. Customer Ambassadors will be in the Grand Central Madison Hall to greet customers and provide information.
The LIRR will begin full service from Long Island to Grand Central after the first few weeks of limited shuttle service, the MTA said. The $11 billion project is a month overdue and is more than a decade behind the originally planned schedule.
When the regular trains start, they run from 6:15 am to 8:00 pm on weekdays and from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm on weekends. According to the MTA press release, trains run every 30 minutes in both directions on weekday lunchtimes and weekends, and once an hour during peak periods.
Those wishing to travel to Grand Central Madison can use Penn Station tickets since both terminals are in the same fare zone.
More information about timetables and other details can be found here.
The Federal Railroad Administration announced in November that it had approved the project that will connect the LIRR to the new station near Grand Central Terminal and allow direct LIRR service into a new concourse below the established transit hub.
The MTA said the $11 billion project will increase service over LIRR by 41 percent, adding about 274 trains each weekday. The morning rush could increase from 113 moves to 158 and the afternoon rush from 98 moves to 158. A new timetable for trains is expected to be published soon.
Back in April, NBC New York got an exclusive glimpse of the project terminal that will allow LIRR drivers to commute faster. Located hundreds of feet below Grand Central, the new terminal aims to bring 60 percent more traffic from Long Island to Manhattan at peak times, with the added benefit of reducing congestion at Penn Station during rush hour.
The construction is one of the largest transportation infrastructure projects undertaken in the United States in recent years, according to the MTA. It is the largest new train terminal built in the United States since the 1950s and the first expansion of the LIRR in more than 100 years.
The project includes work at multiple locations throughout Manhattan and Queens and includes more than eight miles of tunneling. It will carry all 11 branches of the LIRR through a new East River tunnel with a final destination below current Grand Central. This new route saves commuters valuable time en route to the East Side.
The MTA hasn’t given an exact date for when passengers can expect to first use the new terminal, which is actually located below the original Grand Central, but said it will be before the end of 2022 and that it will allow LIRR riders Could save 30 minutes on commuting. NBC New York’s Andrew Siff reports.
“This is the first time in 30 years that we’re taking a fresh look at it [LIRR] schedules,” said LIRR President Cathy Rinaldi.
The project is one component of the broader expansion of the LIRR system to help reduce crowding, train congestion and automobile traffic, and connect with regional transit such as the Metro North Railroad and the New York City Transit subways. East Side Access will also reduce train and passenger congestion at New York’s Penn Station and neighboring subway stations.
The new project also envisages getting people from Grand Central to JFK in 40 minutes.
Manhattan Concourse includes a 350,000-square-foot LIRR passenger concourse just below street level in the Grand Central area that will feature new entrances along Madison Avenue, 25 retail stores, WiFi and cellular, new art installations, and digital signage with real-time train information. The 347 Madison Avenue entrance alone, being built on 45th Street as part of the redevelopment of the MTA’s former headquarters, is expected to serve 10,000 people daily.
When complete, East Side Access — which has been in the works for years — will serve about 162,000 customers daily, according to the MTA.
“When I joined the MTA in 2018, one of my first actions was to conduct an in-depth review of East Side Access,” said Janno Lieber, president of MTA Construction & Development, previously. “We doubled down on this project – expressing confidence in its fundamentals but overhauling the way we went about it. In the past, the answer to challenges has been to push back the project’s completion date. We put an end to that and committed that project would be completed in 2022 as promised.”