The burrow between two boroughs is complete.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) workers made contact at approximately 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 20, finishing a major tunnel of the East Side Access project and bringing Manhattan and Queens closer than ever. Workers broke through the final barrier, connecting the thoroughfare, just under Northern Boulevard and 41st Avenue in Long Island City.
According to MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan, this 120-foot-long segment of tunnel cost $96.8 million to construct — just a sliver of the overall cost of the East Side Access project to connect the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Grand Central Terminal, estimated at $8.24 billion. The tunnel connecting the two boroughs, which measures 60 feet wide and 40 feet tall and runs more than 3.5 miles long, will bring trains on the Long Island Railroad from the new station at 37th Street and Park Avenue to the Sunnyside Yard.
According to Donovan, the roughly 219,000 commuters from Queens and Long Island who rely on the LIRR daily to get to their jobs in Manhattan will have their commutes shortened by between 15 and 30 minutes per day.
“[Commuters] will no longer need to take a train to Penn Station, and backtrack to the East Side by walking or taking a subway or bus,” said Donovan. “In the future, from every LIRR station, you’ll have a choice about whether you want to take a train to Penn Station or a train to Grand Central. It’s the largest expansion of the LIRR in 100 years, a virtual ‘moon shot’ that will double the LIRR’s capacity to move people into and out of Manhattan.”
Gina Moffa currently spends an hour in transit to get from her home in Franklin Square, Long Island, to her Midtown Manhattan office. The People StyleWatch reporter, who admits she doesn’t know much about the ongoing expansion, is hopeful the extension will ease her commute. She believes the train’s arrival point of Grand Central instead of Penn Station will alleviate the extreme congestion that the west side terminus experiences.
“I am hopeful that it will ease my commute and reduce the time I spend on the train every morning,” said Moffa. “I’d be extremely happy if this expansion shed just 15 or 20 minutes off of my commute.”
Construction on the overall East Side Access project began in 2007 and the MTA was awarded the contract to build this segment of the tunnel in February 2010. The project is expected to be finished in August of 2019.