East Side Access, the MTA mega-project which looks to bring commuter trains from western Queens into the east side of Manhattan has been pushed back once again—this time into the next decade. FYI: the project was originally supposed to be completed last December. What a shocker.
In a presentation in front of the MTA board this coming Monday, officials will lay out a new timeline for the ill-fated project, which might be completed by 2021, or some future date when our grandchildren can enjoy it. The huge project will create a connection for trains from Queens, through an unused part of the 63rd Street tunnel. Right now, a massive hole can be seen in the Sunnyside Yards where, for years, the MTA has been hauling out debris from their tunneling deep under Manhattan in a long slog towards Grand Central.
East Side Access appears to be dying a death by a thousand contractors, as the MTA has given out pieces of the project to the lowest bidders, creating a huge network of different companies trying to coordinate on a massive, difficult project. Right now, the cost is estimated to be upwards of $10 billion. For a train system that is in extensive need of upgrades, that's a massive sum to put towards making life more convenient for Long Islanders. Still, several projects, including sending Metro-North trains from the Bronx to the west side, are dependent on the project, making its speedy completion a necessity for curing some of New York City's transit woes.
With the 7 train extension set to open later this year, and the Second Avenue Subway only a few years from completion (and apparently on-time), momentum is still good for large-scale projects in New York City. But the more East Side Access becomes the very definition of a "boondoggle," the less enthusiasm politicians will have towards more urgent transit solutions, like a train to LaGuardia, or the holy grail, the TriboroRX.