• June 25, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

OPINION AirTrain LGA is a must for the new LaGuardia Airport

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Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 2:31 pm, Thu May 30, 2019.

When LaGuardia Airport was built in the 1930s it was an iconic symbol of modern travel, New York State’s first commercial airport. Travel to New York City and the surrounding region would never be the same again, and it quickly grew to become one of the busiest airports in the world. We know that a lot has changed since then, and that LaGuardia no longer reflects New York’s innovative spirit. But that’s old news, with a brand-new LaGuardia rising right in front of us that New Yorkers will be proud to call their hometown airport.

Late last year, airport travelers got a glimpse of the new LaGuardia as the first flights departed from Terminal B’s Eastern Concourse. Over the next few years, the existing Terminal B facility will be entirely rebuilt as part of an ongoing $4 billion overhaul. To the east, the Delta-operated Terminals C and D will also be demolished and replaced with a new, unified, state-of-the-art terminal, which is set to open by 2021. Together, this represents an $8 billion investment to give New Yorkers the LaGuardia they deserve, and the first new airport built in the United States in more than 25 years.

What New Yorkers don’t deserve, however, is the commute they are subjected to every time they fly in or out of LaGuardia. That’s why it’s critical that we move forward with building AirTrain LGA, a project that represents the last crucial piece to complete the comprehensive overhaul taking place at LaGuardia. AirTrain LGA will shift millions of passengers from overcrowded roads to a convenient public transit alternative, providing scheduling certainty for air travelers and significant congestion relief on local streets.

We see no reason that a world-class city like New York — and the 21st-century facility that LaGuardia will become following the redevelopment — should lack a convenient, reliable transit alternative for New Yorkers, business travelers and tourists alike. AirTrain LGA will provide a 30-minute ride between LaGuardia and Midtown Manhattan — with convenient connections to the Long Island Rail Road and the subway at Willets Point — and help create a better travel experience from start to finish.

As co-chairs of A Better Way to LGA, we know that AirTrain LGA will deliver immense benefits — especially for Queens residents. Shifting more and more LaGuardia travelers from cars to a public rail link will reduce the number of cars clogging up not only the Grand Central Parkway, but also the local residential and commercial streets that Waze and other navigation apps recommend for airport access. This also translates to less air pollution from gridlocked vehicles, easier parking for local residents and less difficulty for businesses that rely on local deliveries.

That said, it’s important that decision makers incorporate feedback from the community as they finalize their plans and proceed through the environmental review process. For example, A Better Way to LGA will be urging for the environmental impact statement to evaluate ways to locate the Willets Point transfer station as close as possible to the Long Island Rail Road to ensure a fast and seamless transfer. We also want them to look into relocating employee and passenger parking and other car rental facilities to Willets Point to lessen the extreme congestion all around LaGuardia.

The new LaGuardia will undeniably help change the stale narrative surrounding New York’s regional transportation infrastructure and hopefully put an end to former Vice President Joe Biden’s quotable “third-world airport” soundbite. But a new world-class airport doesn’t succeed if we can’t efficiently move people in and out of the facility. Passengers deserve the kind of rail experience that matches the rejuvenated LaGuardia. That experience needs to be AirTrain LGA.

Angela Pinsky is Executive Director of the Association for a Better New York; Carlo A. Scissura is President and CEO of the New York Building Congress; Tom Grech is President and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce; and they all co-chair A Better Way to LGA.

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