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East Side Access

East Side Access is the MTA’s largest capital project. The finished project will provide Long Island Rail Road riders with 40 miles of new tracks, a new terminal beneath Grand Central, and the modernization of the busiest intersection of passenger train lines in North America.
Updated Mar 1, 2022
An escalator in a train station

Details

  • Location
    Manhattan, Queens
  • Type
    System Expansion
  • Status
    Construction

Area Map

40.752726213685, -73.9772294

Timeline

Pre-Planning
  • 1998: Decision made to complete the East Side Access project
Planning
  • 2001: Environmental Impact Statement approved
Construction
  • 2001: Construction began
  • 2007: Tunneling construction began in Manhattan and Queens
Completion
  • December 2022: East Side Access will open for service

About the project

East Side Access is the first expansion of Long Island Rail Road in more than 100 years. When the railroad was first built, 37,000 people lived on Long Island. Now 2.8 million people live there.

To support that growing population, all 11 Long Island Rail Road lines will connect to Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station. This will save commuters to Manhattan’s East Side up to 40 minutes of travel time per day.

Up to half of Long Island commuters are expected to go to Grand Central, so there will be less crowding at Penn Station and the surrounding subway lines. East Side Access will also create a faster connection to JFK Airport. It will increase peak hour capacity, and — in combination with the Double Track and LIRR Expansion Project — it will make true reverse commuting between Manhattan and Long Island a reality.

When the project is complete, trains at Harold Interlocking, a railroad junction that serves both Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road, will be able to pass through more efficiently. This will benefit travelers all along the Northeast Corridor. The project will also expand and strengthen the regional rail network, protecting it from future transportation crises.

Project benefits

  • A direct connection for all 11 LIRR lines to Grand Central Terminal and Midtown East

  • A new, 350,000-square-foot terminal with spacious waiting areas, retail and restaurants, real-time departure information, and free Wi-Fi

  • Over 160,000 passengers per day will save as much as 40 minutes on their trips

  • Two new tunnels that will increase train capacity to and from Manhattan by 50%

  • Less crowding at Penn Station

  • Improvements to and expansion of Harold Interlocking, a critical piece of the Northeast Corridor

A map of the East Side Access project area