Today’s news:

Congress moves to bring LIRR to Grand Central

Congress has taken preliminary steps toward providing $13.5 million for the EastSide Access project to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal in what U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) called a tough year to get such funds.

Congress also set aside $2 million in additional funds for the Second Avenue subway in Manhattan, a component of the ambitious plan.

“Eastside Access will help residents of Queens with a stop in Sunnyside at Queens Boulevard near Skillman Avenue,” said Maloney , who pointed out that “5,000 Queens residents are expected to take the LIRR instead of the subway with the convenience of a stop at Grand Central Terminal so that all the burden isn’t on Penn Station.

She has been a strong advocate for LIRR riders, who must now take a subway or bus from Penn Station to reach the East Side.

“When you consider that the LIRR crosses the East River anyway, it's ridiculous for passengers to have to go all the way to the West Side and take a subway back to the East Side. Eastside Access will shave 15 to 30 minutes off of people/s commutes,” Maloney said.

Congress had previously appropriated a total of $15 million for the Eastside Access project.

After a final vote by the House and Senate, the omnibus bill providing the money for the two giant projects will require the president’s signature.

Maloney said the two New York City projects got the green light despite a budget atmosphere in which House and Senate leaders were “zeroing out” infrastructure projects throughout the country.

Congress had appropriated $3 million last year for the Second Avenue Subway.

Maloney thanked those who did their part to push the Eastside Access project forward, including U.S. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester), Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) and Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) along with Borough President Helen Marshall and U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

The multibillion-dollar Eastside Access project is slated for completion in 2011 and will require nearly seven miles of new tunnels and construction of a vast new concourse 120 feet below Grand Central Terminal. It would include a new LIRR station in Sunnyside. Planners say it would reduce crowding on Queens subway routes and lessen road traffic.

But transit advocates insist both the Eastside Access and the Second Avenue Subway must be built at the same time. They contend that without the Second Avenue subway, the multitudes emerging from the Long Island Rail Road at Grand Central would pour into the Lexington Avenue subway line, already jam-packed far beyond capacity.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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