Feb. 6, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Two Queens lawmakers have come out in opposition against the Port Authority’s plan to build a 1.5-mile AirTrain from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport.
State Senator Jessica Ramos said she couldn’t support the $2 billion plan without it including any added benefits to the surrounding northern Queens communities. She also said the money is better spent elsewhere.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Without a comprehensive plan for the people in our East Elmhurst community, I cannot in good conscience support the LGA AirTrain,” Ramos said.
Critics have denounced the project’s swollen price tag — it was originally estimated to cost $450 million when it was proposed in 2015.
The large sum of money allocated for the AirTrain would be better spent improving public transportation and infrastructure for Queens residents, Ramos argued.
“Albany has neglected transportation issues in Queens’ working class communities for far too long. While the state funnels $2 billion into the AirTrain, the BQE is falling apart and our transit system is failing,” Ramos said in a statement. “This money would be better spent improving our infrastructure and providing better transportation alternatives for the people who make Queens thrive.”
However, the Port Authority has said the planned route largely runs beside the eight-lane Grand Central Parkway. Also, the plan does not require the taking of private property and construction would not be in residential areas, the authority argues.
The train 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 community members have complained that the 7 subway line is already overcrowded and can’t support additional riders, particularly those with luggage.
The raised tracks would be built along the Flushing Bay waterfront, which has also raised concern among environmentalists.
Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, worries that the AirTrain could harm Flushing Bay’s ecosystem.
“The current proposed route for the AirTrain poses major environmental threats to Flushing Bay and Creek, as Riverkeeper and the Guardians of Flushing Bay have made clear,” Constantinides said.
“I hope the Port Authority can re-explore some of the alternative paths it seems to have overlooked. We need to move people to and from LaGuardia Airport, but it cannot be at the expense of our already precious ecosystem.”
In January, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration questioning why several alternative options for transportation to LaGuardia were eliminated from further consideration after the administration conducted an environmental review of the AirTrain plan.
In November, the FAA said that the best option for public transportation to the airport is the AirTrain that would travel along the proposed route.
The FAA eliminated all other options as unviable to construct and operate.
The Port Authority said the current plan will help travelers and LGA employees reach the airport more quickly and efficiently and take cars off the road.
The Port Authority aims to complete the AirTrain by 2022.