East Side Access: Transforming the United States’ busiest commuter railroad

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s largest capital project is set to transform the busiest commuter railroad in the U.S., easing congestion and dramatically reducing commute times for New York City rail users.

East Side Access Tunnel

The?Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA)?East Side Access program in New York is its largest capital project and the first expansion of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in over 100 years.

The ambitious transit project will modernize and strengthen the regional rail network, delivering greater connectivity to support Long Island’s rapidly growing population and giving LIRR riders faster access to the East Side of Manhattan when the project is complete in 2022. It will ease congestion and dramatically reduce commute times for New York City rail users.

The transformational program is also the biggest transportation infrastructure project currently being implemented in North America, with work spanning three boroughs, including eight miles of tunneling works in Manhattan and Queens; 40 miles of new tracks; a new terminal under Grand Central Terminal; and a new rail yard in the Sunnyside Yard in Queens.

  • 8

    miles of tunneling

  • 40

    miles of new tracks

  • 40

    minutes saved through reduced travel time

  • 162000

    passengers per day benefitting

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) East Side Access

Jacobs has supported streamlined delivery as Project Management Office (PMO) partner since 2018. With a complex web of deliverables and interconnected dependencies, a key element of our role is the integration of over 15 systems contracts, from traction power to signaling.

Our team of experts is helping to oversee and support numerous components of the program, including the boring of nearly eight miles of railroad tunnels in Manhattan and Queens; the laying of 50,000 feet of track; the building of a new terminal under Grand Central Terminal and the testing and commissioning of the systems that will work in unison on opening day. In addition, extensive infrastructure work includes the construction of new ventilation buildings and substantial surface works, as well as the modernization of the busiest passenger train interlocking in the U.S., Harold Interlocking.

“We’re proud to support the MTA in the delivery of the biggest transportation infrastructure project currently being implemented in North America. It’s set to dramatically reduce commute times for New Yorkers and will play an important part in the region’s economic recovery.”

Gary Milligan

PMO Executive & Joint Venture Lead, Jacobs

A key element of Jacobs’ role is the delivery of the CO8 traction power substation located in Queens. The prefabricated modular substation was fully built and installed offsite and delivered to the site in 22 sections to reduce disruptions for rail users, with assembly subsequently completed in just seven days.

Once completed, the new tunnel and track system will increase the LIRR's capacity into Manhattan and shorten the travel time for approximately 162,000 commuters travelling from Long Island and eastern Queens by approximately 40 minutes a day. It will also ease congestion on the city’s trains and subways, especially in the neighboring Pennsylvania Station.

The new terminal, which will have eight tracks and four passenger platforms, will be able to accommodate eight trains at a time, enabling service for up to 24 trains during peak hours. Over 140 feet below street level, the new concourse will provide 350,000 square feet of new space, including over 25 retail store fronts and multiple entry and exit points to Grand Central Terminal and street level.

Jacobs has significant global experience in bringing large-scale transport infrastructure programs to fruition. Partnering with Metrolinx, we’re managing one of the most ambitious public transit undertakings in Canadian history to better serve and connect a vibrant metropolis that’s growing by an average of 100,000 people annually.

When it comes to designing investible infrastructure that addresses the big issues we face in the world—unprecedented urbanization, catastrophic climate threats and both human and natural resources constraints, there’s no partner more capable than us – after all, Engineering News-Record just named us the No. 1 Firm on their Top 500 Design Firms list for the second consecutive year.

We’re reimagining an infrastructure future that delivers more for society, not only in terms of fiscal responsibility, but also in measures of community wellbeing, public safety, business productivity and quality of life—the ultimate outcomes that infrastructure programs are meant to serve.

“East Side Access is a transformational project that will significantly strengthen the regional rail network, delivering faster commutes, fewer delays, greater reliability and more options for passengers.”

Jessica Becker

Jessica Becker

Construction Manager, East Side Access, Jacobs