In a major step forward for New York City�s $6-billion East Side Access project, city officials on July 10th awarded a $428-million tunneling contract to Judlau Contracting Inc., College Point, N.Y., and Spanish firm Dragados.

The team�s $428-million bid came in more than $50 million under the engineer�s estimate, says Mysore Nagaraja, president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Capital Construction Co.

In its 52-month contract, the team will use twin tunnel boring machines to built 21.5-ft-dia tunnels about 130 feet under Manhattan streets. The tunnels will provide Long Island Rail Road commuter trains direct access to Grand Central Terminal. The tunnels will travel from the edge of Manhattan�s East side westward for three blocks, then head south for 14 blocks to 39th Street, terminating at Grand Central.

�We are on our way to building East Side Access,� says Nagaraja.

The project had been on hold for two years due to uncertainty regarding funding. The project moved forward after New York�s state legislature and Gov. George Pataki agreed to fund a $21.2 billion, 2005-09 capital program for the MTA last year. Voter approval of a $2.9-billion transportation bond on the ballot last November gave the project another $450 million, and Nagaraja expects another $2 billion in federal funds.