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Photos courtesy of Governor Andrew Cuomo
Photos courtesy of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden gathered at LaGuardia Airport to break ground on a $7 billion project that will completely transform the 77-year-old airport.

Last year Cuomo announced the construction of a completely new facility to replace the current building. The cost was estimated at $4 billion, but that number has since risen. LaGuardia Gateway Partners will oversee the construction and operation of the new facility, which will be moved 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway.

According to officials, this will increase taxi circulation two and a half times and flight operations by 240 percent.

“This is an exciting day,” Cuomo said. “What we are doing is exciting, how we are doing it is exciting and what it represents is exciting.”

The project represents the largest public-private partnership in United States history, with LaGuardia Gateway Partners financing two-thirds of the project. The construction of Terminal B and C, a new AirTrain and a 3,000-space parking garage is expected to generate 18,000 jobs, Cuomo said.

The new airport is a small part in a much larger $100 billion infrastructure investment project that includes an AirTrain that will connect the airport to Penn Station and the 7 train; the expansion of Penn Station into Moynihan Station — a project that will transform the Farley Post Office into a hub for the Long Island Railroad, Amtrak and NJ Transit; two new tracks for the Long Island Rail Road; and the East Side Access project.

“This is the largest reinvestment in New York infrastructure in modern history and that’s long overdue,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo added that investment in infrastructure in the state and country has been slow in the last few decades, spurring a “constant deterioration of our system over time.”

Vice President Joe Biden — who made headlines when he said that compared to airports in cities like Hong Kong, New York’s LaGuardia Airport looked like it belonged in a “third-world country” — added that the decrease of investment to infrastructure was a country-wide problem.

“Today we invest less than 1 percent, we rank 26th in the world in transportation infrastructure,” Biden said. “How can that stand?”

Terminal B opened to the public in 1964 with the capacity to serve 8 million people. In 2015, it served 17.5 million passengers and is expected to handle 34 million passengers by 2030, Biden said.

“Your city and state has grown, everything has gotten more modern, more digital,” Biden said. “The thing about the governor and the rest of you working with the governor — you don’t make any small plans and you can’t in the Empire State, you can’t think small.”

Half of the new gates in Terminal B will be open to passengers by 2018. The main terminal area, which will connect Terminal B and Terminal C for the first time, will be open in 2020 and a second set of gates will open in two phases – one later in 2020 and the last phase in 2021.  The airport will remain open and functional during the construction phase.

Additional space for security check-in will help diminish wait times for passengers when they wait for TSA screenings. A relaunched Q70 bus service named the LaGuardia Link will be redesigned and become a part of Select Bus Service.

“The greatest city in the world — and New York City is, it’s not hyperbole — needs and deserves the greatest infrastructure in the world,” Biden said.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Governor Andrew Cuomo

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Governor Andrew Cuomo

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