With the Feb. 27 opening of Manhattan’s Grand Central Madison—the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $11.1-billion project that linked Long Island Rail Road lines to Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal rail and subway hub—the MTA has turned its attention to other capital programs. A major one recently announced is the estimated $7.7-billion northward expansion of Manhattan’s Second Avenue Subway into East Harlem, set to start construction next year. And there are two other, lower-profile projects that are critical to train operations in and out of Grand Central, says MTA. They are the replacements of the terminal’s underground train-shed roof and Metro North’s aged Park Avenue Viaduct, which spans north of the shed.

The next two projects “relevant for this neck of the woods are less glamorous,” but important, said Janno Lieber, the MTA’s chairman and CEO, at a March 22 briefing dubbed Grand Central Reimagined, hosted by Milstein Properties. The viaduct, which serves more than 90% of Metro North commuter trains leaving Manhattan, is “literally like a single point of failure,” said Lieber.

Consequently, MTA has accelerated the viaduct work, which is funded under the MTA’s Park Avenue Viaduct Replacement capital project. The first phase is a $589-million design-build job awarded last December to Halmar International. Substantial completion is expected in April 2026.

“We are in the process of expanding" the viaduct replacement so the whole project, up to the bridge to the Bronx, is one megaproject rather than phased projects, said Lieber. 

The structural concrete train shed rehab comes next, under the GCT Train Shed capital program. The roof concrete has been "subjected to generations of corrosion,” as a result of holes poked for utilities, water seepage and more, said Lieber. 

The shed is an expansive, two-level underground rail yard extending beneath Grand Central and Park Avenue, and cross streets and air rights buildings located one block east and west of Park, from East 43rd St. to East 57th St. At 57th St. where the shed is only 140 ft wide, trains enter the Park Avenue Tunnel to East 97th St, where they surface on the viaduct. 

The shed project will replace only the roof over the upper level, which encompasses 650,000 sq ft, exclusive of the space in the air rights buildings.

Shed work was awarded in January 2022 to Civetta and Sons for the $300-million Sector One, in the section surrounding the under-construction JP Morgan Chase Building, also known as 270 Park Avenue. JPMC and the MTA are sharing the management and cost of the replacement, which consists of the train shed’s streets and sidewalks surrounding the 270 Park site.

Substantial completion is scheduled for December 2026, but is subject to change based on the schedule to complete 270 Park, according to MTA.  

JPMC spent $40 million “to fix the train shed in their area,” said Lieber. In return, MTA allowed JPMC’s substructure to penetrate MTA property.

“We are looking for similar collaborations with other companies [in the private sector] to make sure we can make those improvements quickly,” said Lieber. So far, there are no other collaborations pending, says MTA.

The nonprofit Grand Central Partnership—a business improvement district for Manhattan’s Midtown East—also is seeking private-sector investment partners to improve the neighborhood, which “is not where it should be,” Alfred C. Cerullo III, president and CEO of the nonprofit group, said at the briefing. 

In the first 19 days after the opening of Grand Central Madison, formerly known as East Side Access, there was a nearly "25% increase in Long Island zip code riders coming into Grand Central" compared to the 19 days before the opening, said Cerullo. And there has been a 70% increase in pedestrian traffic in the area since 2021, he said.  

Cerullo wants to use the demographic data to support the development of improved public space, such as converting streets to pedestrian use, creating more pedestrian plazas, and adding benches to the landscaped mall dividing Park Avenue. Developers coming into the area “commit to a fund specifically for East Midtown” that will further enhance the public realm, he said.