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Two Queens Lawmakers Oppose Port Authority’s LaGuardia AirTrain Plan

AirTrain LGA (A New LGA)

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.

Proposed Route

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.

Proposed AIrTrain route (anewlga.com)

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3 Comments

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Larry Penner

Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 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. 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 million to a billion more.

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

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ralph

The 7 train is sometimes so crowded that passengers cannot even get on. So, to this already overburdened subway line, they want to add on travelers with their luggage? LOL… who was the idiot who came up with this one?

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Needle

Flushing Bay ecosystem? How out of touch do you have to be to not know that the bay was surrounded for years by small autobody shops and other small industrial type businesses; who know what’s in the bay? Additionally, the bay stinks of rotten eggs at low tide AND LGA already expanded its easternmost terminals into a portion of the bay that was filled to accommodate. Forget the 7 line; run a dedicated express LIRR train (retrofitted to accommodate large luggage) from Penn to Willets Point; build a subway like platform where travelers can just walk over to the other side and get on the airtrain into the airport. The airtrain itself can be built parallel to GCP without disturbing the marina or the gas station. Fares can be paid at Penn Station getting in and going out. One fare. Let’s not turn this into another political boondoggle. We have part of the infrastructure already in place; we can add to it without increasing volume on overcrowded subway lines.

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