First steps taken toward the construction of an AirTrain connecting 7 line & LaGuardia

Rendering via Governor Cuomo’s Office

The long journey toward constructing a new AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport began this week.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that a request for proposals (RFP) was issued by Port Authority to start construction on a new LaGuardia AirTrain connection.

The chosen company will be responsible for constructing up to two new stations at the terminal buildings at the airport and a station at Willets Point. The company will also have to construct a right-of-way for the train from the airport to Willets Point.

“The millions of passengers who travel through LaGuardia each year deserve a convenient and reliable mass transit option that connects this key transportation hub to the heart of Manhattan,” Cuomo said. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a world-class transportation gateway, and an essential piece of the puzzle is ensuring rail mass transit access to the airport.”

The AirTrain would provide a six-minute ride from LaGuardia to Willets Point. A new LIRR station and 7-line subway station are in the process of being constructed at Willets Point, which would make travel from Midtown Manhattan to LaGuardia easier, Cuomo said.

The number of passengers at LaGuardia Airport is expected to rise by 6 million annually by 2030, which makes the AirTrain necessary to “accommodate its growth,” Cuomo argues. But others, like Port Authority Commissioner Ken Lipper, don’t agree.

According to AMNY, Lipper said at a January board meeting that the AirTrain, along with a PATH extension to Newark Airport, would not have enough riders to justify the cost, which was estimated to be $450 million in 2015.

“I’d like to say that the two airport rail projects, one from Newark Airport to World Trade Center, the other from LaGuardia to Willets Point in Queens, are amongst the most ill-conceived projects that I’ve experienced in government,” Lipper said.

Others have argued that the AirTrain would not save anyone time and would crowd the already congested 7 line. The Village Voice pointed out that Long Island residents who do not live off of the Port Washington LIRR line would have to take several trains to access the AirTrain.

The governor’s office used the JFK AirTrain system as reasoning for a need for a similar system at LaGuardia Airport. JFK AirTrain serves more than 21 million riders per year, a number that has almost tripled since the system’s implementation 12 years ago.

The chosen firm would also have to “conduct a detailed ridership analysis and begin analyzing public-private partnerships and other financing options to identify the most advantageous financing plan for the AirTrain.”

Additional parking options and a plan to consolidate 10 rental car companies currently located at Willets Point will also have to be factored into the RFP, which is due in four weeks.

“LaGuardia is an anachronistic anomaly and is the only major airport on the East Coast — from Boston in the north to Miami in the South — that does not have rail access,” said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. “The LaGuardia AirTrain will drive economic activity while reducing congestion across our roadways — benefiting the region, the state and Queens.”

Photo via Governor Cuomo's office
Photo via Governor Cuomo’s office