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Regional Rail Working Group
A Consortium of Transit Advocacy Organizations

New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers
Empire State Passengers Association
Committee for Better Transit
Lackawanna Coalition
Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, Inc.

Statement on LIRR East Side Access Project

June 10, 2004

The Regional Rail Working Group calls on MTA to reconsider its current plan to bring the LIRR to Manhattan's East Side by a constructing a deep-level station some 150 feet below Grand Central Terminal. At $6.3 billion, it is extraordinarily costly to construct; because of its complexity it will take many years to complete; and with its great depth it will require extra travel time for passengers to reach the street. Growing security concerns make the design particularly worrisome, requiring redundant ventilation and passenger egress systems which will be very costly to build and maintain.

All of this could be avoided if MTA would consider options that use existing trackage at Grand Central Terminal -- the world's largest railway station. Before awarding its next contract for construction of the initial part of the deep tunnel option, MTA should meet with transit advocates and carefully review all credible options in an open participatory process. Instead of delaying the project, this reexamination would speed completion of a less costly, more user-friendly design.

The Regional Rail Working group supports the concept of improving East Side Access for LIRR riders. Nearly half of LIRR commuters now arriving at Penn Station would prefer a terminal closer to their destinations on Manhattan's East Side near Grand Central Terminal. Over 30 years ago MTA began construction of such a connection using the Lower Deck of the 63rd Street tunnel. Some 1.6 miles of tunnel are already in place. After many years of under-investment, MTA wisely chose to direct its funds toward rehabilitating its existing infrastructure and postponed completion of the new link. Now, after a lengthy period of internal debate about the engineering design, with at least four distinct plans developed in great detail and then withdrawn, MTA is about to launch its latest plan. This plan remains seriously flawed. MTA can quickly and easily modify its plan and use existing trackage at Grand Central.

George Haikalis
Chair, Regional Rail Working Group
One Washington Square Village, Suite 5D, New York, NY 10012
phone: 212-475-3394 fax:212-475-5051 geo@rrwg.org