For travelers flying to or from New York, a much-anticipated new rail service could be a total game changer. A Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) terminal annex opened at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday, finally making it possible to get from the iconic—and centrally located—Manhattan train station all the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens via train.
Previously, the only LIRR option to JFK from Manhattan was out of Pennsylvania Station (aka Penn Station), farther west. The newly opened 700,000-square-foot annex, named Grand Central Madison, makes getting to the international air hub a much more viable option for a huge swath of city dwellers and for commuters who travel into the city by train from cities and suburbs north of Manhattan and beyond.
An enormously expensive project that’s been in the works for decades—spending on the massive undertaking grew to exceed $11 billion, more than triple the initial estimate of $3.5 billion two decades ago—the new terminal consists of a two-level concourse with four platforms and eight tracks. There are also storefronts and restaurants, many of which are not yet open. The new terminal annex is the country’s largest new railway station in nearly 70 years and the most significant expansion in the last century of the LIRR, the busiest commuter railroad in North America, the Associated Press reports.
The new LIRR train service will run daily between the Grand Central Madison terminal and the Jamaica stop in Queens, where travelers can transfer to the AirTrain that connects to all JFK terminals. Trains run roughly every 30 minutes and alternate among trains that make stops at Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, and Woodside (in addition to Jamaica and Grand Central) and trains that run express between Grand Central and Jamaica. Service will operate between 6:15 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays, and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. The cost for a train ticket between Grand Central and Jamaica is between $7.75 and $10.75, depending on peak or off-peak times. JFK’s AirTrain costs $8 for those starting or ending their journey at the Jamaica stop.
The new terminal opens at a time when train ridership has been down due to the effects of the pandemic. Over the past week, LIRR carried about 1 million riders, or about two-thirds the number it transported during roughly the same week in 2019, according to statistics compiled by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates LIRR, Metro-North Railroad, and New York City Transit.
Associated Press contributed reporting.