By Laurie Baratti
There’s good news for travelers flying into or out of New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), whether they be daily commuters or out-of-town visitors.
The long-awaited direct MTA rail service connecting JFK International with New York’s Grand Central Station in Manhattan is completed, making seamless rail trips from JFK airport in Queens to the centrally located Midtown East train station a reality for the first time ever.
The long-awaited Grand Central Madison terminal annex opened late in January beneath Grand Central Terminal, a 700,000-square-foot, two-level concourse with four passenger platforms and eight tracks.
Service between Grand Central Madison terminal and the Jamaica station in Queens is operated by the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), the busiest commuter rail line in all of North America.
Whereas, previously, the only direct rail service option between JFK and Manhattan was from Pennsylvania (Penn) Station, farther west, the new Grand Madison Central station offers direct service between JFK and East Midtown, offering local city dwellers, commuters and other travelers a more convenient, streamlined transportation option.
From the airport, travelers can take the JFK AirTrain to Queens’ Jamaica station, as usual. But, from there, they now have the option to board to LIRR’s trains bound for Grand Central Madison, as well as those headed to Penn Station.
The anticipated benefits of the new rail hub include saving over 160,000 passengers per day as much as 40 minutes on their trips, increasing train capacity to and from Manhattan by 50 percent, and alleviating crowing at Penn Station and the surrounding subway lines, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) project webpage,
At the Grand Central Madison annex’ grand opening on Jan. 25, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, and MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber rode aboard the first of the direct LIRR trains now operating between Queens’ Jamaica stop and Grand Central Madison.
“Grand Central Madison is a game changer for New Yorkers, and I look forward to welcoming Long Island commuters to our tremendous new terminal,” Hochul said in a statement. “Infrastructure is all about connections, and this project is an extraordinary step forward to better connect millions of New Yorkers with their homes, their families and their jobs.”
“We are so excited to welcome the first generation of LIRR customers who will now have a choice about whether to go to the west side or the east side,” LIRR Interim President and Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi said in the statement. “This is the dawn of a new era for the railroad, no less important than [the] opening of the LIRR’s service to Penn Station in 1910.”
It’s the culmination of an expansion effort decades in the making, and an incredibly expensive one, according to AFAR, with a price tag of over $11 billion—more than triple the $3.5 billion that was initially estimated when construction on the ‘East Side Access’ project began back in 2001.
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