Just two days after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced an $8 billion upgrade to La Guardia and Newark airports, Vice President Joe Biden slammed La Guardia as looking like something out of the "Third World."
Speaking of the need to improve the nation's infrastructure on Thursday in Pennsylvania, the vice president said that if you blindfolded people and brought them to Hong Kong's airport, they would think they're in the United States.
But blindfold them and bring them to La Guardia, and it would be a different story, he said.
"You must think, 'I must be in some Third World country,'" Biden said. "No, I'm not joking."
In response, the Port Authority issued a statement citing its capital improvement projects.
“Significant investment in transportation infrastructure is the key to growing our economy and creating jobs, which is why the Port Authority this week proposed a 10-year $27 billion capital plan that creates more than 126,000 jobs and invests $8 billion in modernizing the region’s airports," the agency said. "We are fast-tracking efforts that have lagged for more than a decade and investing $3.6 billion through an innovative public-private partnership to build a new Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia Airport that will provide passengers with a world-class terminal.”
A press release the Port Authority issued Tuesday elaborated on the project, some of which is already underway. The PA said the new terminal's construction will be done as a "unique public-private partnership," with a private-sector company to be chosen later this year. In addition to replacing the 50-year-old Central Terminal with a new one featuring 35 gates, the work will include building 70 acres of new ramps for planes and a new road network, as well as installing new utilities and other infrastructure.
Pat Foye, the PA executive director, said on Friday that the vice president is right and the airport is an embarrassment. Citing the new terminal project, Foye said the problem with La Guardia is being fixed.
He spoke in response to reporters' questions about Biden's statement at an unrelated event at Kennedy Airport.
La Guardia opened in 1939 and serves about 25 million passengers a year, while Hong Kong International Airport opened in 1998 and serves about 60 million annually.
Domenick Rafter contributed to this story.