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
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.