How Engineers Are Building a New Railroad Under New York City

How Engineers Are Building a New Railroad Under New York City

This tunnel is under 55th Street and Park Avenue. The yellow material is a waterproof membrane, which goes on before the concrete finish. // photo by Dean Kaufman

The East Side Access project will connect the Long Island Railroad to New York’s Grand Central Terminal via a massive tunnel under the East River. Actually, that tunnel was the easy part; it was started in 1969. The hard part? “We are building a brand-new railroad here,” says Michael Horodniceanu, president of Metropolitan Transit Authority Capital Construction. When it’s finished in 2019, around 160,000 people will see shorter commutes. But before that, engineers must complete three tricky segments. Here’s how (and where) they’ll do it.

How Engineers Are Building a New Railroad Under New York City

Illustration by Brown Bird Design

1. Grand Central Terminal
“We are a stealth project when we land in Manhattan,” Horodniceanu says. “No one really knows we are here.” His crews are carving out a terminal beneath Grand Central (above), where twin caverns 1,050 feet long will have eight separate platforms.

2. Northern Boulevard Crossing
To keep the soft ground from collapsing, engineers snaked coils of coolant through the soil to form a protective arch of frozen earth. That let crews work safely while traffic rumbled overhead. Cost: $1 million per foot.

3. The Harold Interlocking
The busiest rail junction in the nation can’t stop for construction. As trains lumber through, crews have been boring the main tunnel below, rerouting and fixing cable and wire as they go. Work there, Horodniceanu says, “is like a dance.”

Source: Wired
  • Alison D. Gilbert

    Finally there will be a direct connection to Grand Central Terminal for LIRR commuters. This means that East Side workers will not have to transfer to the subway at Woodside, Queens. They will be able to arrive on Manhattan’s East side directly. A project that began in the 10960’s is due to become a reality in 2019.

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