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Midtown East slated for 20-year MTA construction project

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The massive undertaking will not be complete until 2040, says the MTA

The MTA will reshape Midtown East over the next 20 years with a massive infrastructure project.
Max Touhey

A massive project to repair rail infrastructure is about to turn one of Manhattan’s busiest neighborhoods into a 20 year construction zone, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The MTA plans to overhaul tunnels connected to Grand Central Terminal below Midtown East, which will include reconstructing a 1.8-mile viaduct that runs on Park Avenue and a series of bridges that support the thoroughfare’s side streets from East 45th to East 57th streets. Transportation officials have budgeted $2 billion, excluding inflation, for the project, according to the WSJ.

Work is due to begin in May, but it is unclear how much New Yorkers navigating the city’s streets and rail systems will feel the impact. By 2021, the MTA is expected to begin closing lanes and sidewalks on Park Avenue and its cross streets for construction.

More than 155,000 straphangers travel through Grand Central Terminal’s network of subway lines and some 200,000 commuters rely on Metro-North on a given weekday, according to MTA data. The streets surrounding the terminal are often clogged with traffic and packed with pedestrians, and are already slated for major change with the passage of the Midtown East rezoning, an upzoning to a 78-block stretch of Midtown that allows for greater investment in neighbor transportation infrastructure in exchange for certain building rights.

To reduce the impact on commuters, repairs will be carried out a few blocks at a time. But major changes will still be felt.

In order to overhaul the two-story train shed that’s home to dozens of platforms and 86 tracks, the MTA says it will need to rip up streets and sidewalks along several office towers whose tenants include high-powered financial firms, and Park Avenue pedestrian spaces that serve as mini-getaways with greenery. Each section of the train shed will be repaired before the streetscape is reassembled with completion slated for 2040, the WSJ reports.

The train shed is in dire need of repairs, the WSJ notes, due to “water and de-icing chemicals” dripping through onto the tracks over the years—gradually corroding the metal and eroding the concrete. Additionally, the installation of gas, electric, water and other utility lines has weakened the structure’s waterproofing system.

JPMorgan, which earlier this year rezoned its Midtown East headquarters, has agreed that its contractor, Tishman Construction Corp., will perform work on the first phase of the train shed repairs. That project is set to demolish and replace the architecturally significant 52-story building at 270 Park Avenue with a Foster + Partners-designed skyscraper, and is among the first properties to take advantage of the the business district’s 2017 rezoning.

The financial company also plans to pitch in $25 million toward the first phase of MTA train shed, which the MTA expects to cost $350 million.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the project would “repair subway infrastructure.” The project will only impact Metro-North. Curbed regrets the error.