Gov. Hochul rides LIRR test train into MTA’s long-delayed station under Grand Central Terminal
Gov. Hochul on Sunday took a test ride into the MTA’s new East Side Access station 150 feet beneath Grand Central Terminal — and said it is still on track to open to Long Island Rail Road passengers in December 2022.
“Everyone who lives downstate, Long Island, New York City, they deserve this,” Hochul said during a news conference at the station. “This is the greatest region on the Earth and it deserve to have the best transportation networks as well.”
She’s the fifth New York governor to oversee the project, which was began under former Gov. George Pataki in 1998 and officially commissioned in 2002. It has since been subject to regular hiccups, with its opening date pushed back 13 years from 2009 to 2022. Its budget has ballooned from $4.8 billion to $11.1 billion.
The completion of major construction on the new terminal was announced by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in May, three months before he resigned in disgrace. Transit officials at that time said the facility needed finishing touches like cell phone service and digital screens — and that the tracks that lead into the station required safety testing.
Hochul’s Sunday ride — which lasted 27 minutes after pulling out of Jamaica Terminal in Queens — was one of those tests and marked the first time anyone who wasn’t an MTA employee or contractor used the line. The governor said acting Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Janno Lieber was a steady hand at the wheel to push the project to completion.
“The construction continues, but it continues at a rate that was not going on before Janno Lieber took the helm at the MTA,” said Hochul, who next year must decide whether to nominate Lieber as permanent chairman. “This is the largest commuter rail unit built in the United States since the 1950s.”
Work on pieces of the project is as old as the MTA, which officially formed in 1968 under former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
New York voters in 1967 approved $2.5 billion in bonds to pay for transportation improvements, including the Second Ave. subway and a set of double-decker East River Tunnels between 63rd St. in Manhattan and Long Island City. The lower tunnel will be used by LIRR trains that run into the East Side Access station.
The new station will be used by an estimated 164,000 riders per weekday, Hochul said. The governor said she is hopeful East Midtown office workers would return to in-person work so that target could be met.
“I think the best way to get everybody back is to ban Zoom in the state of New York,” Hochul joked.
“I do believe that many people are going to realize that they want to congregate back in the offices,” she added. “By the time this is done and people see that they can have a much better commuting experience than they had prepandemic, that will also be an enticement to say, ‘I’m going back to my job in Midtown.’”