The Metropolitan Transportation Authority finished tunnel boring on July 23 hundreds of feet underground and came one step closer to the completion of the East Side Access line.
“We’re literally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel on completing East Side Access, the largest mass transit project under construction anywhere in the country,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) said.
The MTA excavated 13 miles of new tunnels. The muddy crushed rock taken from these tunnels has been used in the foundation for new college dormitories in New Jersey, stable soil under a golf course and as fill that created the Brooklyn Bridge Park along the waterfront.
The ESA will take riders from existing LIRR stations in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties into Grand Central Terminal. A new LIRR station at Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, which would be slated for construction after the completion of the ESA project, will connect LIRR riders to Penn Station.
Once finished, the ESA line will add nearly 50 percent more rail capacity into Manhattan from Queens, saving East Side-bound commuters 30 to 40 minutes daily, according to the MTA. Riders of the ESA from Sunnyside to Midtown will enjoy a one-stop trip.
However, although the MTA made strides by retiring it's tunelling machine “Molina," the MTA still has quite a bit more work ahead of it. The project is slated for completion in 2019.
"In the next month and years ahead, worker on all three projects will continue to excavate station caverns. They will build the platforms, stairways, mezzanines, elevators and the escalators that will make up the new stations. They will lay tracks and third rail and install electrical and signal systems and communications equipment," President of MTA capital construction Michael Horodniceanu said.
The project was funded on Dec. 16, 2006, when the MTA and the Federal Transit Administration signed a full funding grant agreement to provide $2.6 billion of the project’s cost, currently estimated at $8.24 billion.
The project generated 22,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in wages and $4 billion in total economic activity, Maloney said.
According to the MTA, the new line will help alleviate crowding on subway lines that use Penn Station and the 7 train. The LIRR, which operates at or near capacity, was until recently the largest suburban commuter railroad in the country, transporting 272,000 passengers on more than 700 trains every 24 hours. It was surpassed only last year by Metro North, the MTA rail line that runs upstate and into Connecticut.