NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Ignoring the cloud of scandal hanging over his head, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday put another feather in his transit construction cap.

He announced that the long-delayed East Side Access project connecting the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal will be up and running by next year.

CBS2’s Marcia Kramer got an inside look at the site, seven stories under Park Avenue.

PHOTOSInside The East Side Access Project

It was just the kind of event “Robert Moses” Cuomo adores, a chance to take reporters on a tour of an about-to-be-completed transit project that couldn’t have been completed without his help.

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In this case, Cuomo was showing off the long-delayed, billions-over-budget project that will finally connect the LIRR to Grand Central.

It had been a long time coming, originally started in 1999 when George Pataki ran the state. That’s three governors and several fiscal crises ago, and it was a dream of Long Islanders long before then.

According to Cuomo, the project will:

  • Benefit 130,000 commuters
  • Increase LIRR peak capacity by 45%
  • Reduce Penn Station congestion
  • Save commuters going to Manhattan’s East Side 40 minutes a day
  • Allow commuters to get from Grand Central to John F. Kennedy Airport in 40 minutes.

Some critics were wondering why Cuomo was doing the announcement when there are so many scandals engulfing him.

Assemblyman Ron Kim, one of the governor’s harshest critics, raised questions about Cuomo carrying on normally when there are federal and state investigations into sexual harassment and nursing home deaths.

“Anyone with any kind of decency or consciousness would not be able to function this way. It’s wrong. It sends the wrong message to young workers, young female workers, throughout the state of New York,” Kim said.

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Kramer broached the topic with Cuomo.

“Some of your critics are saying that you’re doing this so it’s business as usual, it’s normal, and you can put the scandals aside,” Kramer said.

“I am doing business as usual every day, as you know, because I have a job to do. I’m doing my job and we’re making great progress,” Cuomo said.

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“So the critics are wrong?” Kramer asked.

“Of course the critics are wrong, and let the critics actually get the facts after these reviews are done and then see what they think,” Cuomo said.

And while a lot of finishing work remains, the tunnels are complete, the tracks are in, and the trains are expected to start running sometime next year.

Marcia Kramer