N.Y. expanding nation’s biggest transit hub

Sixteen stories below Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, an army of workers has blasted through bedrock for a new commuter rail concourse with more floor space than New Orleans’ Superdome.

It’s one of three bold projects under way below New York City that will expand what’s already the nation’s biggest mass transit system by 2019.

The 350,000-square-foot concourse below Grand Central will accommodate Long Island Rail Road trains now bypassing the East Side on their way to Penn Station on the West Side.

On Manhattan’s far East Side, the Second Avenue Subway is being built to ease rider congestion on Lexington Avenue trains.

And an extension of the No. 7 subway line will open next year from Times Square to a huge new West Side development called Hudson Yards.

Report: National parks add to state economies

The National Park Service has released details in a spending analysis of national park visitors across the country. Some findings:

Acadia National Park, the 47,000-acre park on Maine’s coast, attracted 2.4 million visitors in 2011, who created $186 million in economic benefits for the surrounding communities and helped support 3,000 jobs.

Visitors to national parks in the Washington, D.C., area spent $1.37 billion in surrounding communities, based on 2011 data. There were 44.5 million visitors to national parks in the Washington area. Spending by visitors supported more than 17,000 jobs. The report says the National Mall and Memorial Parks generated an economic benefit of more than $910 million.

The 3.8 million visitors to national parks in South Dakota, such as Mount Rushmore and Badlands, spent $165 million in communities near those parks in 2011. The report says spending by those visitors supported 2,651 jobs across South Dakota.

Changes proposed for Yosemite sequoia area

A grove of ancient giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park is no place for a tram ride, gift shop and asphalt parking lots, say officials who are looking to have them removed.

Park officials have released a draft environmental study on the effects of an estimated $15 million worth of improvements at Yosemite’s popular Mariposa Grove.

The proposal includes getting rid of the tram ride, shop and parking lots — changes designed to restore the habitat for the nearly 500 giant sequoias there.

Park officials hope that by removing the grove’s parking lot, they will create a larger habitat for new trees to sprout. Visitors then would be shuttled from a station at the park’s south entrance or could hike in on a new two-mile trail.

The project would be paid for by the Yosemite Conservancy. The plan is available on the park’s website.

Comments will be accepted through May 7. Visit www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/mgrove.htm.

Wire reports