Bigwigs at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced plans to tap “outside experts” to review the in limbo $2.1 billion AirTrain proposal for LaGuardia Airport Thursday after Governor Kathy Hochul asked the agency to pause the project last week.
“We will consult with outside experts and stakeholders as we carry out this review,” Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton told reporters following the agency’s monthly board meeting on Oct. 21. “Our plan is to carry out this review as expeditiously as possible, consistent with our commitment to carry it out at the absolutely highest level of quality.”
The head of the bi-state entity remained tightlipped about any details of the review — such as who the consultants would be, a timeline for the study, or whether the rail project pushed by disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo still had any chance of survival.
“What we’re going to do right now is do the study, and we’re going to cross all future bridges when we get to them,” he said at the press conference. “All elements of the review are currently under development and are part of the planning process for the overall review.”
The Authority hit the brakes on the rail project on Oct. 12 at the request of Hochul, who wants the agency to examine alternative mass transit options to the Queens airport.
Cotton said as recently as Sept. 30 that the 2.3-mile elevated AirTrain between LaGuardia and the Mets-Willets Point stations on the subway’s 7 line and the Long Island Rail Road was the best way forward.
But on Oct. 21, he struck a different tone, refusing to say whether he still believed in the pricey plan. Cotton instead repeatedly gave a variety of the same prepared response when pressed by reporters.
“The framework is what I said at the beginning, and what I said at the beginning of this question and answer: Governor Hochul asked the Port Authority to carry out a careful and thorough study of alternatives,” he said. “That is what we intend to do. We intend to do it expeditiously and we intend to do it rigorously.”
The AirTrain was a pet project of Cuomo’s and got the green light from President Joe Biden’s Federal Aviation Administration in July, but progress stalled after the former governor resigned due to sexual harassment allegations.
Opponents of the plan have long criticized the train for not offering a one-seat ride to Manhattan and for taking passengers headed to the island the wrong way east before transferring to mass transit.
Alternative proposals have included extending the N/W subway line, building out better bus service, or launching a ferry.