Home Asides Concerns arise over East Side Access completion date

Concerns arise over East Side Access completion date

by Benjamin Kabak

In its original incarnation, the East Side Access project was to be completed by the second quarter of 2012. As we well know, that timeline has been pushed back by over four years to September 2016, but according to an MTA report, the agency is concerned that they may need to further delay the projected substantial completion date for the Long Island Rail Road connection into Grand Central.

In a document presented last week at the MTA Board committee meetings, MTA Capital Construction officials said “our confidence level in meeting the September 2016 revenue service date is low without significant mitigation.” Because of “on-going contractor delays in Manhattan and Queens” as well as some back-and-forth with Amtrak over the Harold Interlocking work, the MTA has nearly exhausted its schedule contingency, and thus, without mitigation work, the project is in danger of missing the September 2016 date.

According to the brief report, available here as a PPT document, Capital Construction is going to work with the LIRR to reassess construction sequencing and timing for the final sections. The Capital Program Oversight Committee will hear the suggestions and potential cost impacts in September.

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pete July 5, 2011 - 12:44 pm

Lowest bidder, and single bidder, wins, in NY state, by law. Of course it will come in 5 times over budget and 5 times longer. You can’t fire the contractors.

Phil July 5, 2011 - 12:59 pm

Me and thousands of others want this project but if its going to cost way more and take much longer than expected they should just kill the project like they did with ARC and revisit it in 5-10 years if and when funding is around.

If you can’t afford it don’t build it.

Hank July 5, 2011 - 3:49 pm

Unlike ARC, this project already has a huge investment into it. While I am completely sympathetic to the throwing good-money after bad arguments, here the project is simply too far along to stop.

Jerrold July 5, 2011 - 7:34 pm

Hank, that’s right!
Look what happened in the 70’s with the Second Avenue subway when the fiscal crisis hit.
The project was “suspended”, which meant thatsomething like 33 years went by before it was resumed. At least that same mistake was not made when the recent recession hit.

If they were to suspend the East Side Access project now, who knows when (if ever) it would be resumed?

Alon Levy July 5, 2011 - 10:14 pm

Hopefully never, at least not in its current incarnation. I’m fine with a tunnel to Grand Central, but the cavern is a theft of public money.

Anonymoose July 5, 2011 - 10:51 pm

Was an non-cavern analysis ever made public? Because I would think making sure all those skyscrapers stayed upright while digging underground would be the source of many a cost overrun.

Alon Levy July 6, 2011 - 1:35 am

No, not for ARC. But, the non-cavern option there would not involve any construction in Midtown – instead, the TBM would connect to the Park Avenue tunnel and LIRR trains would merge with the existing line to GCT.

Alon Levy July 6, 2011 - 1:37 am

Sigh. I meant, “No, not for ESA.” For ARC, a half-assed analysis was made public.

Bolwerk July 6, 2011 - 2:29 am

I dunno, the more I think about it the more I see a track sharing scenario between LIRR and MNRR in Manhattan as wasteful. If there potentially is a market between for service between LIRR and MNRR tracks, it shouldn’t be that crazy difficult to provide the connection from most of LI and Queens to cross the Hellgate into MNRR territory, and Grand Central can stay out of the equation entirely. This already could connect LI to job centers in Connecticut, and alternatively through service to Penn could send LIRR at least up the Hudson line as easily as MNRR could send service down the Hudson line to Penn. The only challenge then is the Harlem line.

Of course, LIRR to 42nd makes sense for its own sake, and caverns buried hundreds of feet down are bad, but this project is hardly a sensible way to get gislanders to Rye, Yonkers, and White Plains. Even a track connection between the Hell Gate Line and the Harlem Line makes more sense if there is any potential for a critical mass of riders.

Alon Levy July 6, 2011 - 12:07 pm

The point isn’t so much to provide diagonal trips – such trips would not support high frequencies, and a good transfer at Grand Central (or Sunnyside!) would be more useful. The point is to allow the LIRR to serve Grand Central without constructing a multi-billion dollar cavern. It would also provide operational flexibility in conjunction with Alt G, because some LIRR trains could serve both Grand Central and Penn.

dave July 5, 2011 - 1:20 pm

I think that when they do any kind of transit construction like this there should be that clause in the contract that fines the contractor if it’s not complete it in time.

Spencer K July 5, 2011 - 2:00 pm

That’s generally the case with the flip side being that the contractor earns money for early completion as well (withing reason).

Unfortunately, while there are contingencies to protect the city from someone scheduling the project long, and reaping an early completion bonus, there are similar protections for the hired company in having to pay fees. Particularly when working in a city that has 150 years of infrastructure of work through.

dave July 5, 2011 - 2:13 pm

Thanks for clearing that up. I thought that was the case but wasn’t too sure about the specifics . It’s still frustrating when a project is pushed back an extra 4 years or so from the original estimate. It’s kind of like when I had my kitchen remodeled and it took him an extra 4 weeks to complete the job. Luckily we had an agreed upon fixed price.

pete July 5, 2011 - 3:03 pm

Particularly when working in a city that has 150 years of infrastructure of work through.
So what? Whose problem is that? The MTA? or the utility companies’ . You have X months to move it per NY PSC law. On Day XXX we eminent domain it and cut it. If you, the utility company, dont know where you lines our, thats not my problem. If you put the pipe in the street, its your responsibility to move it. If its not your responsibility, then the MTA is now the Water and Gas provider for Manhattan. It should help the chronic budget problems at the MTA.

I thought the whole POINT of deep tunnel boring was to avoid the untouchable utilities. So why is it a discussion for whats not a cut and cover tunnel? Someone will bring up, but the stations are cut and cover.

Nathanael July 13, 2011 - 11:48 pm

Watch what happened with the defective buildings, where the Dept of Buildings did nothing for years, the landlords refused to fix them, and then they blackmailed the MTA into paying to deal with something which was most certainly not the MTA’s problem.

THIS is a problem. Freeloaders blackmailing the MTA into paying for stuff the freeloaders are legally obligated for. You’ve identified it. It needs to be fixed by giving the MTA more weight to throw around against these building owners who violate code and utility companies who don’t know where their lines are.

Bolwerk July 5, 2011 - 5:20 pm

Meh. Cities in Europe get these things done on time and well cheaper than we do with hundreds or thousands of years of infrastructure to worry about.

Emilio July 5, 2011 - 1:28 pm

Speaking of a costly boondoggle…why the MTA couldn’t have done some tweaking and refurbishing of the Hunters Point Avenue Flushing Line station and the underused LIRR stop next door to convert it into an intermodal station with an easy transfer point between the two seems like a lack of imagination. It would have been far less costly than this. And LIRR riders would have had three stops on the 7 train, instead of just one.


pete July 5, 2011 - 3:06 pm

No one who lives in flushing is rich enough to afford LIRR. Same with LIRR in South Jamaica.

Emilio July 5, 2011 - 5:00 pm

Maybe, but what I’m talking about is having some trains from the Main Line stop over at Hunterspoint Avenue (like some Montauk trains already do) and refurbish both the LIRR and the subway station (which is on the Flushing IRT line) so that the transfer to the 7 train is as seamless as possible for the LI Main Line commuters.

Heck, the LIRR already advertises the transfer as East Side access:


Nathanael July 13, 2011 - 11:52 pm

Turf wars. The LIRR really wants to not actually serve Queens or Brooklyn, and the MTA has not had the power to force them to play nice.

That’s the only explanation for the neglect of the LIRR stations in Queens and Brooklyn, and the avoidance of integrated stations (though they did OK at Atlantic Avenue).

Phillip Roncoroni July 5, 2011 - 5:14 pm

Could the 7 line even handle that extra ridership?

Alon Levy July 5, 2011 - 10:16 pm

The 7 is not very crowded entering Manhattan; it’s actually more crowded east of QBP.

Andrew July 7, 2011 - 10:15 pm

Agreed, but there still probably isn’t enough capacity at Hunterspoint to pick up the entire (or a sizable portion of the) Midtown East crowd.

Peter July 5, 2011 - 4:05 pm

– But the Long Island Rail Road ISN’T “…coming to Grand Central”. It’s coming to a completely separate LIRR Station sort of near GCT, but 12 or 15 stories below it. Certainly there will be no simple transfers from MNR to LIRR lines or trains capable of operating on either system. And just wait till the elevators & escalators begin to fail on a regular basis, making the climb from platforms a 15-atory slog. The ESA Project will no more bring the LIRR into GCT than the “Airtrain” brought an actual one-seat ride from JFK to midtown.

All these recent megaprojects are worthy, but ill-described, underfunded and oversold.

Walter July 5, 2011 - 6:11 pm

The escalator from the new tracks is 91 feet to the new concourse, and the new concourse is being built out of space in Grand Central’s lower level, so it’s not too bad. I’m not sure though about connections to Grand Central North.

A new cavern is probably the only way to bring the LIRR there, as the Park Avenue tunnel can’t handle the traffic and is impossible to widen without destroying Park Avenue. Shame, because the new M8s are being equipped with a third rail shoe that could operate on both under-and- over-running third rail.

Jerrold July 5, 2011 - 7:40 pm

As for connections to Grand Central North, the new entrance now being built on 47th St. east of Park Ave. will have a connection to the Long Island Level, as well as to the “47th St. Cross-passage” that provides northern access to the Upper Level platforms.

Matthew July 5, 2011 - 8:12 pm

The M8s will be able to use the over-running third rail if a solution is found for the electrical gap on the Northeast Corridor between the New Haven line and Penn Station. Either third rail would have to be installed on that section or convert the overhead AC power to 60 Hz. The M8s don’t have transformers capable of running on the AC power that exists in that section, 12,000 Volts @ 25 Hz.

Nathanael July 13, 2011 - 11:54 pm

Amtrak needs to convert everything east of Newark to 60 Hz. It would benefit NJT as well; they’ve built decades of infrastructure based on the assumption that Amtrak would, and then Amtrak hasn’t….

Alon Levy July 5, 2011 - 10:18 pm

As soon as ESA opens, Metro-North could comfortably move some Hudson and New Haven Line trains to Penn Station, creating more space on Park Avenue. In fact Metro-North could move trains to Penn first – the East River Tunnels are running significantly below capacity.

Bolwerk July 5, 2011 - 5:18 pm

Contractor delays would probably disappear quickly if they came with punitive fines for the contractor.

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