Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D) yesterday signed legislation to advance the process to build a new AirTrain connection to LaGuardia Airport.
The new law will allow multiple potential alignments to be considered during an upcoming environmental review of the proposed AirTrain LGA project, planned between the airport and the Long Island Rail Road Station and the 7 subway train at Mets-Willets Point in Flushing, Queens.
The action marks another critical step toward making a mass-transit link between Midtown Manhattan and LaGuardia a reality, which will help reduce vehicular congestion and delays for passengers traveling to and from the airport.
AirTrain LGA seeks to establish a reliable, convenient means of travel, with less-than 30-minute trips between the airport and New York Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal. It will also provide rail access from all of Long Island via the LIRR as well as the MTA’s 7 subway line.
“The new LaGuardia Airport will provide an improved customer experience with better access to airlines and public transportation for all passengers – essential to the airport’s transformation,” said Cuomo. “AirTrain LGA will set an example of comprehensive transit infrastructure for the rest of the nation, and will pay dividends for decades by connecting riders to transit hubs across the Metropolitan area, boosting passenger growth across all airlines, and providing a more efficient means of travel for generations to come.”
In coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the steps include the selection of a consultant to prepare the Environmental Impact Statemnet (EIS) and to oversee the process for the proposed environmental review. The environmental review is slated to begin later this year with completion expected at the end of 2019.
Construction is anticipated to start in 2020 and conclude in 2022.
Cuomo praised Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-East Elmhurst, LeFrak City, parts of Corona, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst) and State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) for their efforts in passing legislation to consider alternative routes that would lessen the potential impacts of AirTrain LGA on community residents, while supporting LaGuardia Airport’s ongoing modernization.
The legislation specifically defines a corridor within which the AirTrain LGA project could be constructed and allows, within this corridor, for alternative alignments to be developed and considered as part of an extensive environmental review process, with required public participation. That corridor was created in consultation with local community members and elected officials.
No route can be finalized before the FAA-led environmental review is completed. Under the legislation, the State Department of Transportation (DOT) would be authorized to acquire parcels of land already owned by the City or the MTA within the established corridor. No private property would be impacted.
The Port Authority (PA) already has conducted numerous meetings with local elected officials, community groups and other key stakeholders to elicit comments regarding potential AirTrain routes ahead of the formal environmental review process. The agency will continue to actively seek further input.
The PA, which operates LaGuardia Airport, is working cooperatively with the MTA to build a new station complex at Mets-Willets Point, with easy transfer options between the LIRR or 7-line and the new AirTrain, which will run approximately every four minutes. The total estimated travel time between midtown Manhattan and the airport of less than 30 minutes is composed of an approximate 16-minute journey on the LIRR between Moynihan/Penn Station or Grand Central and Willets Point, followed by an approximate 6-minute journey from the Willets Point Station to LaGuardia.
The announcement supplements the progress to create a new $8 billion state-of-the-art unified LaGuardia Airport via public-private partnerships to build new Terminals B and C, which broke ground in 2016 and 2017, respectively. A new Terminal B garage opened earlier this year and the first new concourse and gates at Terminal B will begin operations later this year.
U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside) said the announcement marks an important milestone in efforts to rebuild and modernize infrastructure across New York.
“The AirTrain will finally make LaGuardia rail-accessible, better connecting travelers with the airport and helping to relieve congestion. New Yorkers deserve a first-rate airport they can be proud of, and I thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to transforming LaGuardia into a 21st century facility,” Crowley said.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (D) said for the AirTrain LGA project, it’s not a matter of whether, but a matter of where, which will be largely determined by the local community as part of the environmental review process.
“AirTrain LGA is an important component of the massive infrastructure overhaul underway to transform LaGuardia Airport into a 21st century, state-of-the-art, reliable airport. Queens thanks Governor Cuomo’s leadership in ensuring the project serves the needs of the airport while at the same time working in partnership through the environmental review to identify and address the concerns of the impacted surrounding community,” she said.