Planning for an AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport has commenced.
The Port Authority on Monday announced it has issued a request for proposals for preliminary engineering and planning work for a new AirTrain connection to LaGuardia from Willets Point.
“The millions of passengers who travel through LaGuardia each year deserve a convenient and reliable mass transit option that connects this key transportation hub to the heart of Manhattan,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a world-class transportation gateway, and an essential piece of the puzzle is ensuring rail mass transit access to the airport. With this action, we’re taking the next major step toward making this a reality.”
The request for proposals closes in four weeks. The selected firm will be responsible for the planning of two AirTrain stations at new terminal buildings of the airport; an AirTrain station at Willets Point; and construction related to the right of way for the train between the airport and Willets Point.
The firm will also be responsible for conducting “a detailed ridership analysis and [to] begin analyzing public-private partnerships and other financing options to identify the most advantageous financing plan for the AirTrain,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.
The AirTrain station will complement a revamped No. 7 train station at Willets Point and new Long Island Rail Road station. Cuomo’s office expects the AirTrain to be a boon for both city commuters and Long Island drivers, who would be able to connect from the Long Island Rail Road at the Queens transit hub. A trip from Willets Point to the airport would take six minutes, the governor’s office estimates.
Others fear that the AirTrain is waste of resources, though an exact price tag for the project remains unclear. Port Authority Commissioner Ken Lipper said at a January board meeting that, by his own estimates, the AirTrain, as well as a proposed PATH extension to Newark Airport, wouldn’t generate enough riders to warrant the cost.
“I’d like to say that the two airport rail projects, one from Newark Airport to World Trade Center, the other from LaGuardia to Willets Point in Queens, are amongst the most ill-conceived projects that I’ve experienced in government,” said Lipper, a Cuomo appointee.