Grand Central’s LIRR terminal will finally open Wednesday

The Long Island Railroad terminal under Grand Central will finally open Wednesday – albeit as part of a soft launch with limited service.

After 15 years of construction on the $11.6 billion transit hub, the MTA will offer some bus service between Jamaica, Queens and the new LIRR terminal as the agency slowly opens the line to commuters, the agency announced Monday .

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The first train will leave Jamaica at 10:45 AM. and is scheduled to arrive at LIRR Grand Central Madison Terminal at 11:07 a.m., the MTA said.

Limited bus routes will continue for “at least three weeks”, the agency said. After that, the LIRR will run full service from Long Island to the new 700,000-square-foot terminal named for its location that operates underground on Madison Avenue.

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The state agency said the three-week smooth rollout will allow customers to “acquaint themselves with the new terminal as existing programs continue.”

The MTA plans to add the new train schedules to its website and TrainTime app before full service begins.

Workers inside the under-construction Grand Central Madison LIRR Terminal.
The terminal will open 15 years after construction began.
Steven Young

MTA CEO Janno Lieber
MTA CEO Janno Lieber announced the project won’t be completed until the end of 2022 at a monthly board meeting.
Steven Young

Express service from Jamaica to Grand Central Madison will continue as the “Grand Central Direct” line once full service begins.

Trains on the direct line will run from 6:15am. to 8:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 7:00 a.m. until 23:00 on weekends.

The MTA will honor Penn Station tickets for those traveling to Grand Central Madison during the initial service period, the agency said.

MTA executives and Gov. Kathy Hochul had hoped the sprawling project — also referred to as East Side Access — would be finished before the end of the year, but the opening was delayed until this month because of a faulty fan.

Inside the under-construction Grand Central Madison LIRR Terminal.
Construction of the project began in the 1960s but was abandoned due to financial constraints.
Steven Young

Inside the under-construction Grand Central Madison LIRR Terminal.
The new station will feature four new LIRR platforms.
Steven Young

The latest delay is just a small snippet in the project’s long history of setbacks and cost overruns.

The historically delayed terminal was first proposed more than 50 years ago.

Workers began building a tunnel under the East River to serve the station in the 1960s, but over the next decade, the city abandoned its plans as it faced mounting financial issues.

The MTA revived plans in the 1990s, setting an estimated completion date of 2009 and a price tag of $4.3 billion—less than half the current cost.

Inside the East Side access tunnels
The project was picked up in the 1990s, when officials set an estimated completion date of 2009.
Daniel Shapiro

Inside the East Side access tunnels
The project’s final price tag of $11.6 billion is more than double the original cost estimate.
Daniel Shapiro

The MTA estimates that the new rail lines — once in place — will increase overall LIRR service by 41 percent. Before the pandemic, officials estimated the new stop would serve 150,000 daily riders.

The new terminal will include four new LIRR platforms as well as a concourse with 25 retail stores and a floor-to-ceiling mosaic by renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.