The Port Authority officially submitted its case for the AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport to the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday. The latter will oversee the environmental review, during which the public will be able to provide its input on the development, and the agency will study the impact of building the train.
The Cuomo administration has been pushing the AirTrain for quite some time now, arguing that LaGuardia is the only airport serving the city that does not have any train connectivity. Now the Port Authority is also highlighting the urgency of the train in light of anticipated traffic congestion on the streets in the coming years.
The Port Authority cited a study conducted by Sam Schwartz Engineering that found there was an exponential increase in the number of trips that lasted more than 70 minutes between LaGuardia and Midtown Manhattan from 2014 to 2017. The engineering firm predicts that by 2045, with the prevalence of autonomous vehicles, it could take up to two hours to commute between Midtown and the airport.
In contrast, the AirTrain will help airportgoers complete that trip in under 30 minutes, the Port Authority estimates. As the plan stands right now, the AirTrain will go from the airport to a station at Willets Point, which will offer connections to the Long Island Railroad and the 7 train, which in turn will take passengers to Grand Central or Penn Station. The proposed route for the AirTrain is supposed to run on the northern edge of the Grand Central Parkway for the first 700 yards, and then along the median of the parkway and the edge of the Citi Field parking lot for the remainder of the journey. Under this proposal, the Port Authority wouldn’t have to acquire any private property to move forward.
Some of the alternatives the Port Authority studied included a ferry service, exclusive bus lanes, improvements to the existing bus lanes, and a proposed extension of the N train from Astoria to LaGuardia. The Port Authority deems the AirTrain to be the “preferred alternative.”
The Port Authority anticipates that there will be between 6.6 million and 10 million annual trips on the AirTrain in the first few years, and that this will increase to anywhere between 8.4 million to 12 million by 2045.