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JPMorgan Tower Makes Grand Central LIRR Project An Engineering Headache

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As a tower that’s planned to exceed 1,000 feet, such a structure would need an especially large and deep base. Unfortunately for JPMorgan, train tracks running to and from Grand Central Terminal lie beneath the proposed tower site. The deep-cavern Long Island Railroad station being built beneath the existing Grand Central Terminal further complicates the tower project because now even more infrastructure will be in the way. Photo Credit: Curbed NY

Gov. Andrew Cuomo loves photo ops at the unveiling of new infrastructure projects, like the Second Avenue subway and Cuomo Bridge that replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge. He’s been adamant about the East Side Access project that would finally bring Long Island Railroad trains to Grand Central Terminal, giving some Queens and Long Island residents direct access to the east side of Manhattan.

Those plans may be in jeopardy if JPMorgan Chase goes ahead and builds the new headquarters at 270 Park Ave, Crain’s New York reports. For now, the city and state still have the upper hand, as the new tower would have to be built around the infrastructure for East Side Access. This situation could further be complicated by the amount of political power such a large banking institution has and the fact that some critics and skeptics don’t think the railroad project will ever even be fully realized.

As a tower that’s planned to exceed 1,000 feet, such a structure would need an especially large and deep base. Unfortunately for JPMorgan, train tracks running to and from Grand Central Terminal lie beneath the proposed tower site. The deep-cavern Long Island Railroad station being built beneath the existing Grand Central Terminal further complicates the tower project because now even more infrastructure will be in the way. Construction crews for both projects could also wind up doing work in close proximity to each other, causing potential logistical headaches for the construction teams and for everything nearby. Having to shut down multiple streets to allow construction vehicle access or having excessive noise coming from two different projects in close proximity could become a hot-button issue for neighbors.

The East Side Access Project has been discussed for decades, just like other projects including the Second Avenue subway. More recently, the Access to the Region’s Core group put out a plan mostly focusing on Penn Station and increasing train traffic capacity. Some of the alternative plans included connections to Grand Central Terminal. One would have connected into the lower level of Grand Central Terminal and would also use the tunnels being built at 53rd Street to make optimal through-running service a possibility.

The current East Side Access project takes advantage of these tunnels because when they were built for subways, the design allowed for easy future infrastructure additions. ARC alternative plan G would have simply connected the tracks heading to and from Penn Station from and to the East River tunnels to Queens to the upper level of Grand Central Terminal, and that would have been significantly cheaper than the $11 billion that East Side Access currently costs.

Some transit advocates push hard for more regional thinking, and through-running train service is one of their most important points. This type of train service would mean that, for example, a New Jersey Transit train running from Trenton wouldn’t terminate at Penn Station but would continue on to Long Island, Westchester, Connecticut, etc.

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