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AOC Questions $2 Billion LaGuardia AirTrain Plan in Letter to FAA

Jan. 14, 2020 By Allie Griffin

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in on the contentious $2 billion plan to build an AirTrain from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport on Friday.

Ocasio-Cortez questioned why several alternative options for transportation to LaGuardia were eliminated from further consideration in a Jan. 10 letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In November, the FAA — which conducted an environmental review of the plan — concluded that the best option for public transportation to the airport is the AirTrain proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and preferred by the Port Authority.

The FAA eliminated all other options as unviable based on the conclusion that they were not “reasonable to construct and operate.”

In her letter to the FAA, Ocasio-Cortez demanded a detailed explanation why the agency ruled out 46 alternative plans — specifically ferry service, dedicated bus lanes for Q70 buses, an extension of the N,W subway line from Astoria and an Airtrain connecting LIRR and the 7 train at the Roosevelt Avenue-Jackson Heights station.

Many of the alternatives were suggested by members of the public during a public commentary period. More than 100 commenters suggested extending the N, W subway line as an alternative and the majority of respondents opposed the AirTrain proposal.

The FAA reported that 255 area residents gave feedback from May through June 2019 in opposition to the AirTrain for a variety of reasons — while just 55 supported it.

The AirTrain would connect to riders on the Long Island Railroad and 7 train line at the Willets Point Station, where they could transfer to the fixed guideway and take it to LaGuardia Airport.

However, many respondents said that the 7 subway line is already overcrowded and can’t support additional riders, particularly those with luggage.

Critics have also denounced the project’s swollen price tag — it was originally estimated to cost $450 million when it was proposed in 2015 — and questioned whether it would cut commuting time to the airport.

The route sends Manhattan travelers further into Queens, past the airport, before they can transfer to the AirTrain LGA at the Willets Point station.

Proposed AirTrain LGA Map (A Better Way to LGA)

“Given the results of the public comments, and concerns raised by community members of the cost, impact and practicality of the fixed guideway to Willets Point, I request clarification on why the following alternatives were eliminated from further consideration as viable options for improved access to LaGuardia,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

The Port Authority aims to complete the AirTrain by 2022.

Public information sessions on the project will be held tonight and tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Ballroom (lobby level) of the New York LaGuardia Airport Marriott, located at 102-05 Ditmars Blvd.

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17 Comments

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Adella

Just extend the N, W down 31 Street to either 19th, 20th or 21st Avenues and forget about the AirTrain. Make it a part of the MTA. This will help so many people who need to get to the airport and residents who live far from the Ditmars Station. It could also revitalize 19/20th ave and create new housing and business where the old factories are. I agree with AOC. It could also help create something beneficial for all Astorians and Rikers Island.

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Anonymous

Have you ever traverse 20th Ave. Many homes on the south side (residential) that were built between 1930 to 1940.

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Anonymous

It’s amazing how some plans get steamrolled through…New Yorkers & tourists need a direct route to & from the airport, from Manhattan. No scenic routes around Queens.

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Common Sense

Extending the N, W down 31 Street to either 19th, 20th or 21st Avenues is ludicrous.
I believe that we need a reasonable alternative to allow passengers to travel to/from LGA but extension of the N/W line with its arcane box construction is not the way to go.
As a life-long Astorian, this expansion would decimate the local areas that would be involved. Also anything north of and including 20th Avenue is landfilled marsh. If the subway was extended along 19th Avenue then LGA fuel farm and Elmjack fields are impacted. Anyone that lives/lived in that area can testify to the cracks in the plaster in their homes from the vibrations that were/are caused by the heavy traffic that has increased exponentially. The ICYP and Italian Federation Soccer fields would also be adversely affected. In the 60’s and early 70’s these areas were quiet, peaceful residential areas. Now we have a multitude of vehicles not to mention the air traffic has increased the noise pollution dramatically.
I find it ironic that all those who tout the impending doom for the environment are more than perfectly happy to substantially increase air traffic congestion which no doubt spews an inordinate amount of emissions not only in the lower atmosphere but higher at a planes cruising altitude. Also what about the increase of light, noise pollution.
In the past I had asked P. Vallone and our current Councilman to push for investigating the possiblility of rerouting all commercial traffic to run from 31 Street to an expanded 19 Avenue all the way to Hazen Street. Thereby bypassing all the fields and paly areas along 20th Avenue. I never heard a response.

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Larry Penner

In 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated the cost would be $450 million with a completion date of 2019. I predicted that both his cost and promised completion date were unrealistic. Both have proven to be true. The original Port Authority 2017 – 2026 capital budget plan lists this project at $1 billion. It was subsequently revised to $1.5 billion several years ago and today it stands at $2 billion. The revised completion date is now end of 2022. I predict 2024. Costs will be further refined as the project progresses through the environmental review process, preliminary and final design, award of construction contracts, followed by change orders to the base contracts during construction, due to last minute changes in scope or unforeseen site conditions. The anticipated final potential cost for the Air Train could end up several hundred to a billion dollars more. Don’t be surprised when the Port Authority increases tolls to finance cost overruns. Everyone already knows that there is no spare capacity on either the #7 subway or Long Island Rail Road Port Washington branch during rush hours to accommodate several thousand additional potential Air Train riders. Only Governor Cuomo, the Port Authority, their consultants along with labor unions and construction contractors who would benefit by this project, refuse to acknowledge this reality.

Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, NYC Transit, MTA Bus, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, NYC Department of Transportation and Nassau Inter County Express Bus along with 30 other NY & NJ transit agencies).

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LIC DIRECT

She’s not in the pocket of the Big boys — she’s a thorn in their side, I voted for her , got rid of Joe Crowley, what she is saying makes sense. Now if we can get rid of the rest of them begiining with Ginaris, and Jimmy Van Bramer.

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Mandi

AOC doesn’t make statements until she’s done her homework.!! A LaGuardia AirTrain from Astoria would only go two blocks on 31st Street over residential areas. The rest would be over industrial areas. This is the route we should all be pushing for!!

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Hell Gate Harry

Yes!! Extending the N train from it’s current terminus at Ditmars Blvd,
It would run East up 20th Avenue from 31st Street.
The far better option.

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Porky McGoober

it should just be an extension of the N/W train. They just need to get the elevated tracks a couple blocks north to 19th ave, at which point it could turn east and head down 19th ave to the west part of the airport. 19th ave is in the middle of a crappy industrial area anyway. I suppose since it would be part of the subway system the Port Authority wouldn’t be able to collect anymore money…though they could maybe add a $5 surcharge if you enter/exit the subway at LaGuardia

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Bianca

The path of least NIMBY resistance seems to be the current plan and that is why AOC spoke up and wants people to reevaluate it for better and perhaps cheaper options.

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Trump coerced Ukraine into providing damaging narratives about Joe Biden

I thought Trump lovers were supposed to be disputing that? Why are you agreeing with it?

Is it because of Giuliani’s text messages that confirmed the quid pro quo?

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Mac

@Warren4prez- Why not put a person with a doctorate in law from Yale in charge of the project? You voted a reality game TV shove host and 6 time bankruptcy filing con artist into the White House.

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Mike

Yes this is a waste of Billions! As a traveler for work and visiting loved ones, airport access is something I’ve longed for. But this approach is exceedingly stupid. The Port Authority, Cuomo, etc should have provided train access from Astoria along the N/W lines years ago, instead of building the less important JFK train.

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Amanda

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has every right to question and speak up against AirTrain from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport. The Northern Astoria (Ditmars area) is part of her district. Its one of the reasons I moved here like so many of her supporters.

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Ajkuna

I agree with AOC and many others that extending the N, W subway line through Ditmars, 21st or 20th ave would be a better option. They should also add additional entrances/stops (instead of making it an express train to the airport from Ditmars Station) which would of helped the community in Astoria Heights like myself. I rent an apartment and the bus is not reliable.

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