Grand Central Madison testing is in final stages for opening later this year

Oct. 26, 2022
The new service will represent a 41 percent increase in the number of daily LIRR trains and mark the biggest LIRR service expansion in 112 years.

Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) crews have entered the final stages of testing escalators, elevators, HVAC systems and fire safety equipment necessary to launch service to Grand Central Madison, scheduled to start later this year. Historians would have to go back to Sept. 8, 1910, the day LIRR service opened to Penn Station, to find an equivalent to what will occur within a few weeks when new LIRR train service begins serving Grand Central Madison on Manhattan’s East Side. It’s also the largest schedule increase in LIRR history, with the LIRR adding 269 trains per weekday, a 41 percent systemwide service increase, to 936 trains per weekday from the current 667.

As the opening nears, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released a video that that gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the new terminal was built. View Video Customers and rail fans alike can see historical photos, construction videos and informational graphics on everything related to the biggest LIRR service increase in 112 years and largest schedule increase ever -- condensed into a little over two minutes.

The new route will also enable the LIRR to accommodate all anticipated customer demand to Manhattan when Amtrak begins a project in 2024 to rebuild its East River Tunnels to Penn Station. The project will take one of the four tunnels out of service, in sequence, over a period of three years, reducing LIRR capacity to Penn Station – capacity that the LIRR will be able to maintain to Manhattan with its new tunnels to Grand Central Madison. As ridership continues to recover following the pandemic, the new terminal allows the LIRR room for further growth in the years ahead.

“In 2018 shortly after I came to the MTA to lead capital construction work, I evaluated this project and instituted a series of reforms that have allowed us to maintain the opening date of 2022,” said Janno Lieber, MTA Chair and CEO. “When the history of this challenging, massive project had been to delay the opening date any time a difficulty was encountered. I said NO - we can finish this project on time, and we will. And since that time, we have maintained that schedule and there has been no additional cost slippage on this important project.” can finish this project on time, and we will. And since that time there have been no cost increases on this project.”

“The LIRR continuously monitors ridership patterns and adjusts schedules to best meet evolving needs of customers, and the opening of a new terminal during recovery from a pandemic gives us an extraordinary opportunity to expand and re-imagine service,” said Catherine Rinaldi, Interim President of MTA Long Island Rail Road and President of MTA Metro-North Railroad. “Our off-peak and especially our weekend ridership recovery has been much stronger than expected, while the emergence of hybrid work patterns have led us to see a lower proportion of our customers traveling into Penn Station during peak hours than was the case before the pandemic, and our new timetables work to accommodate these trends.”

The opening of LIRR service to Grand Central Madison and the completion of the Main Line Third Track make reverse commuting from New York City to Long Island a realistic alternative for the first time under the proposed schedules. The change opens up new opportunities for tourism, schools, parks, and jobs on Long Island.

People traveling from Long Island to east Midtown – the center of the region’s knowledge economy – will save up to 40 minutes per day and will be able to avoid backtracking from the West Side. The new terminal is 750,000 square feet, hundreds of thousands of square feet larger than the existing Grand Central Terminal, and construction to build it has taken place with tunnel boring machines and even dynamite out of sight and without disrupting the busy business district above it.

Some of the other big benefits of the new service include:

• More evenly spaced trains and fewer large gaps in service

• More frequent service to Queens

• More frequent service on the Ronkonkoma and West Hempstead branches

• 28 percent increase in Brooklyn service

• Decreased travel times from Long Island to Manhattan

• Less crowding at Penn Station

The project completion complements the recent completion – on time and trending $100 million under budget – of the LIRR Main Line Third Track between Floral Park and Hicksville. That $2.5 billion megaproject was done with robust community input and included the upgrading of five stations, elimination of eight railroad crossings, upgrading of more than a half dozen bridges on the corridor, enhancements to substations, and community benefits including landscaping and sound attenuation walls. It enables the LIRR to more quickly work around any service disruptions and paves the way for the service increases associated with Grand Central Madison, including the reverse-peak service increases.