The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will not build a proposed multibillion-dollar AirTrain mass transit option to New York City's LaGuardia Airport.
A panel of agency experts determined that the best alternative transit solution for the airport in Queens would be increased bus service available at the N/W subway line terminus in Astoria. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement that she would “accept the recommendations” of the panel.
The preferred alternative is expected to cost under $500 million, compared to estimates for the 1.5-mile AirTrain line that ranged between $2 billion and more than $6 billion, Port Authority said.
The plan calls for the addition of express, nonstop shuttle service on MTA’s Q70 bus line between the subway terminus and the airport’s three passenger terminals. To accommodate that, the panel recommends building a 1-mile-long exclusive bus lane on the northbound shoulder of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway between Northern Boulevard and Astoria Boulevard, creating a specially designated bus pick-up and drop-of area near Terminal C with exclusive direct road access and making other improvements to traffic signals, signage and service frequency.
The proposed infrastructure work and service improvements would benefit about 3.5 million passengers per year, according to the panel.
The plan still requires approval from Port Authority’s board of commissioners. Agency staff say they plan to bring a planning authorization request to the board in 60-90 days to start the funding process for improved bus service.
A panel of engineering and construction firm consultants, including Bechtel, WSP, Nelson\Nygaard, Foursquare ITP and Ramboll, were hired to perform an analysis of different mass transit options to meet airport demand and also reduce car traffic. In addition to different bus service additions, the consultants examined options such as extending subway lines, building new light rail, using ferries from Manhattan or implementing emerging technologies like a hyperloop or autonomous vehicles.
Those other options would have faced a variety of constraints, according to the consultants’ report. Federal Aviation Administration regulations prohibit infrastructure construction at- or above-grade intersecting runway flight paths. Tunneling would conflict with underground utilities including 90-year-old sewer and stormwater conveyance built on wooden support piles.
The consultants presented their findings to Port Authority’s three-person panel of experts, which included Mike Brown, who was previously London’s transport commissioner and manager director of Heathrow Airport; Janette Sadik-Khan, principal at Bloomberg Associates and a former NYC Dept. of Transportation commissioner; and Phillip A. Washington, CEO of Denver International Airport and former CEO of Los Angeles Metro.
Hochul had asked the agency to examine mass transit solutions for the airport after her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, had originally announced the AirTrain proposal, resigned amid accusations of misconduct. The controversial plan faced lawsuits from community advocates and environmental groups, as well as opposition from Port Authority staff.
“I accept the recommendations of this report, and I look forward to its immediate implementation by the Port Authority in close coordination with our partners at the MTA, in the City of New York and the federal government,” Hochul said in a statement.