BY LUIS GRONDA
If a plan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo comes to fruition, you may soon be able to get to LaGuardia Airport by train.
The Governor announced a plan to construct an AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport and have it running out of Willets Point along the 7 line to the northern Queens airport.
Speaking during a breakfast event in Manhattan Tuesday morning in advance of Wednesday’s State of the State, Cuomo said that travelers need more public transportation access to LaGuardia.
“You can’t get to LaGuardia by train. That is really inexcusable and that is going to change,” he said.
The plan calls for a 1.5-mile train line beginning at the 7 train Mets-Willets Point subway stop, running over the Grand Central Parkway and ending at LaGuardia. In addition to accessing the subway, the new connection would allow riders to catch the Long Island Rail Road at the Willets Point stop as well.
This plan is the second time Cuomo has petitioned for improving LaGuardia Airport. Last year, appearing with Vice President Joe Biden, Cuomo announced a Master Design Competition to solicit ideas to improve both LaGuardia and JFK Airports. Biden had also referred to LaGuardia as a “third world country” in Feb. 2014.
According to Cuomo’s office, it would cost about $450 million to build the new AirTrain and the construction will be handled by both the Port Authority and the MTA.
Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye and MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Pendergast released a joint statement saying both agencies are working together on the project, just like they did with the Kennedy Airport AirTrain.
The 8.1-mile AirTrain opened in 2003 to provide another transportation option for residents and travelers to get to JFK. The line runs within the airport and goes to Jamaica, where you can connect to the LIRR or the E and J subway stops at Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Avenue.
“We will build this project in a cost-effective way that minimizes disruptions to nearby communities as well as airport operations, and we can get it done within five years of obtaining all necessary approvals,” they said.
Speaking at a roundtable with reporters on Tuesday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz approved of the plan, saying, “It’s a long time coming.”
“The LaGuardia expansion is a smart idea. It’s one that we talked about when we did the Kennedy AirTrain. We talked about ‘we have the Kennedy AirTrain but what about a two airport connection.’ It’s an important part of our area, its also an important part of job creation,” she said.
Katz was also appointed on a seven-member panel to advise the Governor on the two airport redesigns.
Other Queens elected officials blasted out reactions to Cuomo’s plan soon after it was announced.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said that creating a train to LaGuardia “has been a dream for decades.”
“This concept is the most optimal because it would avoid ramming another elevated train through the backyards of western Queens residents,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside) also supports bringing a train to LaGuardia.
“An elevated AirTrain can make public transportation more attractive to those traveling to and from LaGuardia, and it would expand the potential of the Number 7 train and Long Island Rail Road. It also stands to reduce congestion, promote tourism and stimulate the Borough’s economy,” she said.
Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) also supports the idea, but he said he hopes the Governor involves the community and other elected officials in the process of creating this new train.
He added that he believes the current AirTrain running near JFK should be extended to LaGuardia so that travelers can get to and from each airport on a train. DenDekker said that travelers do have to switch flights between each airport and this would make it easier to get to each airport.
“It would alleviate a lot of the traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway and Grand Central Parkway as well,” DenDekker said.
According to Cuomo’s office, he also wants to establish new ferry service in New York City that would include a ferry running from Manhattan to LaGuardia.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.