East Side Access!

Here I am inside the East Side Access Tunnel, Manhattan side of the project.

 

The East Side Access Tunnel trip was incredibly fascinating and I learned so much.  To reiterate, the East Side Access is a project connecting the LIRR to Grand Central Station.  The LIRR only goes to Penn Station, which leaves many commuters with a long journey to work.  Creating this project by adding three new tracks that will use the 63rd street tunnel, which was built in the late 60s and 70s and nicknamed the ‘tunnel to nowhere,’ even though it will be serving this project.  The F train uses the two upper tracks of the tunnel, while the lower two tracks have been unused.  They will be used by the East Side Access trains once this project is completed.

We first toured the Queens side, which is less complete.  The Queens side is more complicated then the Manhattan side because they water table is only 10 feet below ground, which Manhattan is solid rock.  They are working on finishing excavating the tunnels and then connecting them in the break section.  We didn’t get a chance to see an actual tunnel boring machine (TBM) since our tour was running late.  The TBM’s are apparently ginormous and its job is to excavate a circular cross-section.  The excavation is then lined with gigantic concrete slabs, which serve as the basis of the tunnel.  There’s about 2,400 workers and the project has been in progress for 10 years.  Completion is not expected until 2019, mostly due to financial and budgeting problems.  There has only been 1 death in

The top three tunnels are ‘revenue,’ which means passenger trains will be using those, and the fourth one, hard to see, but it’s on the bottom moves trains to their needed locations.’

 

When we went to the Manhattan side, my best comparison is to an alien planet.  It’s super dark and dusty, and completely muddy.  The temporary lights only illuminate sections being worked on, and in every direction you can see the eerie glow of them, and some huge machine tearing through dirt, or drilling, or something else that needs to be done.

Here’s a tunnel being worked on, I believed this one leads down to a would-be subway platform.

Here’s a tunnel being worked on, I believed this one leads down to a would-be subway platform.

 

 

Doesn’t this look so eerie? Wish I brought my better camera to capture its’ craziness.

 

I wish I brought my better D-SLR camera to snag better quality shots but I was afraid of it getting damaged or dirty, I did not know what to expect.  When we were in the Manhattan tunnels, we were not allowed to use flash for two reasons: 1. The air was so dusty. 2. A camera flash might confuse the workers of a blast, which can be very dangerous to them.

One of my favorite parts was returning to the surface after the Manhattan trip. I had forgotten after we had taken the subway from Queens to Grand Central that we entered the site from a specialized personnel door in the terminal.  To think that this other planet of construction was just a few hundred feet from the elegant Grand Central station was just… unbelievable.  It definitely contributed to the feeling of being on another planet.

The workers are also all over the world and are highly specialized and many of the machines used are also from all parts of the world, mainly Germany.  It was also good for me to see four female workers, all engineers, and despite the dirty workplace, they looked great.

The East Side Access Tunnel project was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me.  It is currently the biggest kind of it’s project in North America, and to witness the creation of something that will serve thousands of tri-state area residents and travelers is an awesome feeling.

This is an artists’ rendering of what the terminal and platform addition sto Grand Central will look like.

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