Grand Central Madison Opens – East Side Access FINALLY! And a side trip to Moynihan Train Hall

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If you’re a New Yorker surely you have heard the news that the Long Island Railroad has finally opened Grand Central Madison. The first revenue train ran on Wednesday, January 25, 2023. The infamous project was 60 years in the making, 11 years late, and $7.5 Billion over budget.

It was originally intended to end in a terminal under 63rd Street somewhere around 2nd Avenue, using the bottom level of the 63rd Street tunnel. That plan morphed into direct service to Grand Central’s lower level, but was opposed by Metro-North due to capacity issues. Finally, it was decided to build a deep-cavern station under Grand Central Station’s Madison Avenue yard, which has become the Concourse for Grand Central Madison.

The complexity of the project was severely underestimated. It involved additional tunneling under the streets of Manhattan for the approach to the terminal. It also involved navigating underneath subways and the Park Avenue tunnel, as well as the labyrinth of utilities that essentially have the reach of the fungus in the HBO series “The Last of Us”.

I rode this new line yesterday from Madison to Jamaica to experience it first hand for this article. I began my journey in Springdale, CT on the New Canaan branch of the New Haven Line, transferring in Stamford. It’s a quaint little branch, but very convenient.

After arriving I had some time to kill in Grand Central, so I took some pictures, including signage for the Long Island Railroad.

You have to love the main concourse at GCT; I love getting a panoramic shot. Of course, one must also get a shot of the Tiffany clock at the information booth.

To tell you the truth, the access to the LIRR Madison concourse was a bit hard to find, and needs more prominent signage. The entrance from the Biltmore Room is not yet open, meaning you must use the lower level of GCT.

Back when I commuted, I used this hall frequently, as well as the Watch Store.

I finally arrive at the entrance to the Madison Concourse from the lower level.

It is a hike to get to the concourse. What they need is a moving walkway.

One of the most maligned features of the new terminal is the length of the escalators to the boarding area. I’ll be honest, this didn’t faze me at all.

A panorama of the boarding concourse. There are two track levels, and upper and a lower.

An amazing Mosaic before going down to the platforms.

And the descent to the platform.

Overall, I was very impressed with Grand Central Madison. Time will tell whether the service is considered a success, but I believe it will be.

After riding out to Jamaica, I returned to Manhattan and decided to kill two birds with one stone by going instead to Penn Station and visiting the relatively new Moynihan Train Hall, serviced by the LIRR and Amtrak. Amtrak and LIRR are exploring the possibility of Amtrak running out to the Island; I hope that does come to fruition.

Again, it’s a bit of a hike depending upon where you detrain on the platform to get to the concourse. Penn Station has been described as a rat maze, with very low ceilings. I detrained towards the west end, but still came up short getting to Moynihan. LIRR incoming trains generally come in on the higher numbered tracks, which fall short of reaching the new train hall.

Moynihan has a great food hall. I chose Ramen, and enjoyed a beer.

And finally, the train hall. What a difference between the Penn under Madison Square Garden and Moynihan!

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Manhattan’s two most recent transit enhancements!

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