Today’s news:

$200M East Side Access bill awaits U.S. Senate vote

A U.S. Senate committee has approved spending nearly $200 million for the East Side Access project to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration and passage.

"East Side Access is a necessity for Long Island and Queens commuters who spend needless hours every week on their daily commute when they could be spending time with friends and family," Schumer said.

The $197,370,000 will go into the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related agencies appropriations bill, which includes the East Side Access project.

A boring machine recently reached Grand Central after eight months of carving a mile-long tunnel through bedrock from East 63rd Street in Manhattan. A second boring machine will shortly begin a parallel tunnel along the same mile-long route with completion expected by late summer.

The $6.3 billion project is scheduled for completion in 2013.

The East Side Access project is expected to shorten the commute of tens of thousands of Long Island and Queens commuters, relieve congestion at Penn Station, remove thousands of cars from roads and help remove 800 tons of pollutants from the air.

The new link is also designed to greatly reduce the bottleneck on subways and buses between Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.

The project will include a new LIRR station in Sunnyside as well as seven miles of new tunnels.

A late 1990s study concluded that 70 percent of jobs in midtown Manhattan were within walking distance of Grand Central Terminal, but only 30 percent within walking distance of Penn Station.

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