First trains to run to Grand Central Madison as part of East Side Access Project Wednesday

First trains to run to Grand Central Madison as part of East Side Access Project Wednesday
The first passenger trains will run into Grand Central Madison on Wednesday. (Photo from The Island 360 archives)

The Long Island Rail Road will begin running trains into Grand Central Madison Wednesday as part of the MTA’s East Side Access Project following the postponement of the December 2022 opening that had been promised for at least five years.

The first train will leave Jamaica at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday and is expected to arrive at Grand Central Madison by 11:07 a.m., officials said. The ride will be the culmination of the $11.1 billion project that took 15 years to construct.

“People have been riding the railroad the same way for a long, long time now,” LIRR President Catherine Rinaldi told News 12. “This is going to provide a lot of options with respect to how people travel.”

In December the Metropolitan Transit Authority canceled the much-anticipated opening of the Grand Central Madison service, citing ventilation system problems and the need to conclude testing.  The news was greeted with widespread disappointment and frustration. 

MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said a “counteracting air flow” prevented one of the exhaust systems in Grand Central Terminal from pulling in enough air, causing delays.

The new terminal will be able to handle increased capacity from the LIRR’s North Shore train stations as a result of continued express service on the Port Washington line and more commuters from the agency’s 3rd Track Project.

After proposing changes to the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington branch that would have eliminated express service as part of the East Side Access project, transit officials said they abandoned plans to do so in October.

Overall, the branch will receive an 11% boost in service, with more trains becoming available for commuters on the Port Washington Branch, according to the draft schedules following the agency’s announcement.

A total of 103 trains per day will be servicing the branch, 10 more than the current schedule has, officials said. On weekends, a total of five more trains, 81 in total, will be operating along the branch.

The draft morning rush hour schedule includes 15 trains arriving in Manhattan between 6:16 a.m. and 9:51 a.m., a 36% increase from the current 11 that arrive at Penn Station between 6:21 a.m. and 9:34 a.m., according to officials.

The branch’s afternoon and evening rush hour schedule will also see a 43% increase in service, including three express trains. A total of 20 trains will leave Manhattan between 4:06 p.m. and 7:43 p.m., six more than the 14 trains that currently provided that service to commuters on the Port Washington branch, according to officials.

The first section of the 3rd Track, which will run between Floral Park and Hicksville, opened in August.  

Floral Park Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald, whose predecessor had opposed the 3rd track, voiced his support for the enhanced service Floral Park will now receive.

Fitzgerald said Floral Park residents will “finally be able to reap the rewards” of the 3rd Track Project combined with the East Side Access Project’s direct access to Grand Central Station.

The mayor said the proposed changes for the Floral Park station will result in a 50% increase in midday trains, a 20% increase in weekend train service and more frequent stops at the station post-p.m. rush hour.

“This will allow our residents to be able to stay in the city longer, enjoying whatever event they were attending and not having to worry about making a train back home,” Fitzgerald said.

In recent years, he said, Floral Park residents have been subjected to various restraints and disruptions as a result of the construction of the 3rd track and station upgrades.

Previous Floral Park board meetings were flooded with concerns and complaints about crews working on tracks longer than anticipated, excess noise coming from construction and transportation of materials, along with claims that environmental studies were not properly submitted.

“Over the past few years, the Village of Floral Park along with its neighboring villages on the main line have endured significant construction and disturbances to our daily lives,” Fitzgerald said. “The new schedules, as presented, will allow for the residents of Floral Park to reap the benefits from the aforementioned inconveniences. The draft schedules now make living in Floral Park even more attractive than it already is.”

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