By Philip Newman
A tunnel beneath the Sunnyside Rail Yard in Queens, which is part of the East Side Access project, has been completed seven weeks ahead of schedule.
“We are delighted to complete this important milestone,” said Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota. “Each piece of the project that we bring in ahead of schedule means that we can dedicate resources to those parts of the project that most need attention.”
It was particularly welcomed at the MTA in light of the recent report that the East Side project was so far behind schedule — that it would now not open until 2019 and would cost $1 billion more than originally planned.
The newly finished tunnel is the third of four tunnels the MTA is building in Queens.
Trains using the tunnel will be en route eastbound from Grand Central Terminal toward Long Island. They will take the tunnel to merge onto the Long Island Rail Road main line eastbound tracks leading to Jamaica and Port Washington. A tunnel boring machine began digging the tunnel March 26.
“The completion of this tunnel is another reminder that we continue to make tangible and significant progress on this project every day,” said Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, president of MTA Capital Construction. “We should never lose sight of the first-class work that our employees and our contractors are undertaking on this extraordinarily complex project.”
Transit officials said excavating in soft earth in this part of Queens is unlike tunneling in Manhattan bedrock. The boring machines digging in Queens build concrete tunnel walls as they progress, giving the tunnels shape and strength at the same time they excavate the ground beneath busy railroad tracks.
The boring machine designated TESS — for Tunnel Excavation Sunnyside — installed 441 precast, segmented concrete rings. It excavated 875,169 cubic feet of soil over nine weeks as it built the 2,200-foot-long, 22.5-diameter tunnel.
The East Side Access project will bring LIRR trains into Grand Central Terminal, saving the average commuter 40 minutes daily by no longer traveling to Manhattan’s east side jobs by subway, bus or taxi or on foot.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 718-260-4536.