The federal government will provide $2.6 billion to help build a new network of train tunnels under New York City designed to connect trains from Long Island to Grand Central terminal. The project, known as East Side Access, is the largest-ever federal investment in a single transit project. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is providing $4.5 billion to help construct the Fulton Street Transit Center and build a permanent PATH terminal in lower Manhattan.

East Side Access will give Long Island Railroad commuter trains direct access into the lower level of Grand Central, shaving more than 40 minutes off the daily commutes for tens of thousands of passengers once it is completed in 2013. The project includes construction of new tunnels under Manhattan and Queens that will connect to the existing 63rd Street Tunnel below the East River. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said the project was needed to fix the current problem many Long Island commuters face of having to ride trains into Penn Station and then back-track via subway to jobs in and around Eastern Midtown.

Peters also announced that the DOT would allow the Metropolitan Transit Authority to commit as much as $693 million to begin construction of the Second Avenue Subway Line and that the federal share of such costs would be reimbursed with FTA transit funds, subject to appropriations and final labor certification.