By Verena Dobnik
NEW YORK, N.Y. (AP) – Sixteen stories below Grand Central Terminal, an army of workers is blasting through bedrock to create a new commuter rail concourse with more floor space than New Orleans’ Superdome, just one of three audacious projects going on beneath New York City’s streets to expand what’s already the nation’s biggest mass transit system.
But even with blasting and machinery grinding through the rock day and night, most New Yorkers are blithely unaware of the construction or the eerie underworld that includes a massive, eight-story cavern, miles of tunnels and watery, gravel-filled pits.
“I look at it and I’m in wonder, I’m in awe,” says engineer Michael Horodniceanu, president of capital construction for the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “I feel like when I went to Rome and entered St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time. … I looked at it and said, ‘Wow, how did they do that?”’
In New York, they hauled out so much rocky debris from under Grand Central that it could have covered Central Park almost a foot deep, Horodniceanu says.
Together, the three projects will cost an estimated $15 billion. And when they’re all completed, tentatively in 2019, they will bring subway and commuter rail service to vast, underserved stretches of the city, particularly the far East and West sides of Manhattan.
“They’ll be a game-changer for New Yorkers,” says Horodniceanu, an Israeli-educated native of Romania who lives in Queens.
The most dramatic project will result in a sort of 21st century, underground Grand Central Terminal mirroring the century-old Grand Central Terminal above – a 350,000-square-foot, $8.3 billion commuter rail concourse with six miles of new tunnels. It will accommodate Long Island Rail Road trains that now bypass Manhattan’s East Side as they roll east through Queens and straight to Pennsylvania Station on the island’s West Side.
This so-called East Side Access will bring about 160,000 passengers a day from Long Island to a new station in Queens’ Sunnyside neighborhood, then about five more miles to the new, eight-track Grand Central hub.
For now, the subterranean hub is a drippy, humid construction site. The raw, dark gray walls mark the dimensions of the future concourse – eight stories high, about 70 feet wide and 1,800 feet long, or about “five football fields, without the end zones,” Horodniceanu says.
The Federal Transit Administration is kicking in $2.7 billion toward the estimated $8.3 billion budget, with the MTA state agency covering the rest using mostly taxpayer money.1 2 next >>
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