Plan for $ 2.1 billion AirTrain to La Guardia is on hold

The plan to build a $ 2.1 billion AirTrain to La Guardia Airport has officially been put on the brakes.

The agency that operates the airport, the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, said Tuesday afternoon that it would suspend “further action” on the project, which had been pushed hard by former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Cuomo’s successor, Governor Kathy Hochul, has called for a review of alternatives to the AirTrain plan, which has been criticized by community groups and elected officials.

Complaints included that the remote route would put drivers off and hurt property values ​​in the neighborhoods around La Guardia in north Queens.

Despite these objections, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the AirTrain plan in late July, paving the way for the port authority.

But three weeks ago, two Queens-based community groups and Riverkeeper, an environmental group, filed a lawsuit against the project, arguing that the FAA had eliminated some alternatives without properly considering them.

The groups also urged the FAA to suspend approval of the project. The FAA gave the port authority until Tuesday to argue against being granted residence. The agency argued, in part, that the break requested by Ms. Hochul for the review made a stay unnecessary.

“At the request of Governor Hochul, the port authority is conducting a thorough review of potential alternative local transport options to La Guardia Airport,” said the authority on Tuesday afternoon. “The Agency will work in close coordination with independent experts and stakeholders and complete its work as expeditiously as possible, in line with the need for a thorough and rigorous review.”

Michael Dulong, Riverkeeper’s senior attorney, welcomed the review. “We are looking for the best transit alternative for the region and the one that has the least impact on local communities and the environment,” said Dulong.

Ms. Hochul’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

When last week called for a review of “alternative local transportation solutions” that would reduce car traffic and improve airport access, Ms. Hochul said, “We need to make sure our transportation projects are bold, visionary and meet the needs of New Yorkers.”

Before Mr Cuomo resigned abruptly this summer after a state report found he had sexually molested several women, he urged port authorities to develop a rail link to La Guardia.

The ongoing overhaul of the airport was one of the governor’s favorite projects. During his tenure, few other elected officials publicly opposed the AirTrain plan, even though its estimated cost had risen from $ 450 million to $ 2.1 billion in just a few years.

All of the funding was supposed to come from the Port Authority, jointly controlled by the New York and New Jersey governors, and the airline tickets were charged. As in the AirTrain at Kennedy International Airport, AirTrain drivers would pay a fare. The current fare is $ 7.75.

But once Mr Cuomo lost his power, some elected officials were encouraged to call for a revision of the AirTrain plan or a complete abolition of the plan.

“The whole time we were faced with an unusual situation: a governor who did not work with anyone, who created a culture of fear, who rushed through projects, good or bad,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a recent briefing at City. opposite reporters hall. “And now we have a chance to see this thing in the clear light of day.”

One of the most frequent criticisms of the project was the so-called wing-way route. To get to Manhattan, arriving travelers would have to travel further east, away from the airport, to a station near Citi Field before transferring to the 7 subway line or Long Island Rail Road.

Critics also say the rising costs would make the project one of the most expensive rail routes in the world.

In their defense, Port Authority officials stressed that the line chosen, running from Willets Point along Grand Central Parkway, would be the least disruptive to residential areas. Alternatives, including an extension of Astoria’s N subway line, would require taking private property, they said.

In addition to the subway extension, which would probably have to be built by the financially troubled Metropolitan Transportation Authority, express buses, ferries or an AirTrain with a more direct route are other alternatives.

Leave a Comment