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.
“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.