By Bill Parry
The engineering firm behind the Second Avenue Subway line has been awarded the $14.6 million contract to develop the initial plans for the AirTrain connection to LaGuardia Airport.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that multinational engineering and design firm Parsons Brinckerhoff was selected to conduct preliminary engineering work on two AirTrain stations at LaGuardia linked to a complex at Willets Point with easy transfers to the No. 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road.
“The new AirTrain will improve passenger experience, reduce traffic congestion and serve as a key part of the modernization and transformation of LaGuardia into a world-class airport,” Cuomo said. “LaGuardia Airport is an essential part of New York’s economy and transportation network, and by providing additional transit options, we will support new economic opportunities and growth throughout the region.”
Parsons Brinckerhoff will create a conceptual design for both the train right-of-way and the stations, and develop cost estimates for the project, conduct a detailed ridership analysis, analyze public-private partnerships and other options to identify the most advantageous financing plan for the AirTrain. The firm will also evaluate expanded parking and centralized car rental operations at the new Willets Point Complex.
Reliable and efficient rail service, to and from the airport, is critical to manage on-site airport parking, improve drop-off and pick-up activities at the terminals, and reduce congestion in and around the airport, including the Grand Central Parkway and neighborhood streets, according to Port Authority officials.
“LaGuardia Airport is the only major airport in the region without direct rail transit access,” Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said. “With passenger demand expected to reach 34 million annually at LaGuardia by 2030, providing mass transit access to the airport is fundamental to transforming it into a world-class facility that supports future growth, while reducing roadway congestion and resulting emissions.”
The plan does have its critics, who say the No. 7 subway line is already operating at capacity and the LIRR connects to just a single branch. While Cuomo guarantees a 30-minute ride from midtown, some say express bus service is faster.
Port Authority Commissioner Ken Lipper ripped the plan during a January board meeting, calling it one of “the most ill-conceived projects that I’ve experienced in government.” Lipper is a Cuomo appointee.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr