The Federal Railroad Administration posted its decision this week allowing the MTA to open its long-stalled Grand Central Madison — formerly known as East Side Access — project by the end of the year, despite delays with the installation of mandated safety technology.
MTA officials have for years said the project — which aims to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into a new station beneath Grand Central Terminal — would be completed by the end of 2022. But earlier this month, officials told the Federal Railroad Administration that computerized technology to automatically prevent oversized Amtrak trains from entering one of its new East River tunnels would not be done in time, and asked the feds to waive the requirement until March.
The FRA responded on Friday, issuing a notice that said the MTA could open train service, but must have the technology installed by Feb. 25.
In its response to the MTA, the FRA highlighted concerns about safety in the new tunnels, but said if the MTA completes a series of six steps, the service would be deemed safe until the technology is installed. The steps include submitting weekly safety reports, not allowing freight trains in the busy Harold Interlocking that directs trains in Queens, and reducing Manhattan-bound train speeds to 45 mph.
The MTA also must do several practice runs to ensure wrong trains won’t enter its tunnels.
“A minimum period of simulated revenue service to ensure operational readiness and that all safety sensitive personnel are properly trained and qualified,” the FRA response noted.
"We received the FRA waiver as anticipated since the LIRR train control system already has features that prevent oversized trains from entering the east side tunnels," MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan said in a statement.
The FRA said it will not be extending the deadline.