First opened in 1939 in the northernmost section of East Elmhurst, Queens, LaGuardia is now ranked as the 20th busiest airport in the country.
Last year, it handled about 28.4 million travelers on more than 360,000 flights. The airport’s four terminals accommodate 12 airlines at 73 gates that trip to 70 nonstop destinations.
More than 7,500 tons of cargo and 1,000 tons of mail pass through the airport each year. About 4 million passengers use the airport to connect to other flights.
Construction and notorious delays
Today’s LaGuardia has been built up over decades to meet increased demand. Marine Air Terminal, known as Terminal A, was built in 1939. Terminal B, or the Central Terminal Building, opened 25 years later, in 1964. The terminal serves as the airport’s nexus and handles the majority of its passengers.
Terminal D, serving Delta Air Lines, opened in 1983, with Terminal C following in 1992.
Once billed as the “air gateway to America,” Terminal B has recently been referred to as a “third world country” by Vice President Joe Biden. Now significantly outdated, LaGuardia has been surpassed in usage by both Newark and Kennedy airports.
Officials say LaGuardia’s isolated terminals, a product of “sporadic and piecemeal development,” hinders plane movement, which leads to gate delays, and significantly dampens the commuter experience.
Plans for rebuilding
Over the next five years, LaGuardia Airport will be completely rebuilt under a plan from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his Airport Advisory Panel.
The governor pushed to build a Central Terminal Building with a “world-class” main entrance, more mass transit connections and a better utilization of LaGuardia’s relatively small real estate at the tune of an estimated $8 billion.
The project will link all four terminals through one new facility that will be built 600 feet closer to the adjacent Grand Central Parkway. Pushing the airport toward the highway will make way for two miles of aircraft taxiways to better plane movement and which would reduce delays, according to the governor.
To support the shift, a new roadway network will be built along with a 3,000-car parking garage, known as the West Parking Garage.
An AirTrain from the Willets Point 7 train station, as well as ferry service to the Marine Air Terminal, have been proposed to increase mass transit options. Though, compared to existing transit options, critics have speculated as to whether an air train would actually provide a faster trip to the airport.
Timeline and funding
The new LaGuardia is being built at the tune of $8 billion and is anticipated to be completed by 2021.
The first half of the project will cost $4 billion through what is considered the largest public-private partnerships for infrastructure in the United States, according to the governor, and consists of replacing Terminal B, a new 1.3 million-square-foot building with 35 gates.
Ground broke on the project in June 2016. The governor’s office estimates that the facility will be open to the public in 2019 with the entire project completed two years later.
The second half of the rebuild will involve redeveloping and connecting the Delta-operated terminals C and D to the unified airport. That work, which is also expected to be done by 2021, is estimated to cost $4 billion and will be financed primarily through Delta, with the Port Authority contributing $600 million.
Port Authority money will go toward building new supporting infrastructure around Delta’s terminals, like ramps, an electrical substation and connecting roadways.
The new West Parking Garage is anticipated to be completed in 2018.
Construction and traffic
This August, the TSA began advising passengers flying out of LaGuardia to arrive at least two and a half hours before their departure after the administration said it had witnessed an rise in delays due to the airport’s reconstruction.
LaGuardia Gateway Partners (LGP), the consortium of developers leading the rebuild, said it will be closely monitoring traffic around the airport, which is primarily accessed via car.
Stewart Steeves, CEO of LGP, said he is confident that shuttle services, and alternative parking and pick up lots will be successful in reducing traffic at the airport though the group will “remain diligent” and open to further mitigation.
“LaGuardia Gateway Partners has worked around the clock with the Port Authority, construction managers, engineers, and other airport officials to assess, address and improve the traffic situation,” Steeves said in a statement. “We have set up a joint traffic command center to monitor traffic and manage traffic flow.”