Gov. Kathy Hochul Cans LaGuardia AirTrain Project

reprints


The LaGuardia AirTrain is dead. Long live Queens’ bus lines. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul decided to trash the project to build an AirTrain connecting the No. 7 subway line to LaGuardia Airport after its estimated costs swelled from $450 million to $2.4 billion, The New York Times first reported.

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Instead, Hochul plans to increase bus service to the airport and add a nonstop shuttle between the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard subway station and LaGuardia, following the recommendations of a panel of transportation experts she asked to review the AirTrain in 2021.

“Shortly after taking office, I asked the Port Authority to thoroughly examine mass transit solutions for LaGuardia Airport that would reduce car traffic and increase connectivity, while meeting the demand of our customers,” Hochul said in a statement. “I accept the recommendations of this report, and I look forward to its immediate implementation.”

While the panel preferred a “one-seat” subway journey to LaGuardia, the cost and construction challenges of building a subway extension were too great, according to a statement from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which released the panel’s recommendations Monday. 

The expanded bus service is expected to cost less than $500 million over two to five years, while the panel estimated a rail extension could run up a bill of up to $7 billion over 12 to 13 years, according to a statement from the panel. 

“It has been clear that the proposed line was both fiscally dubious and insufficiently beneficial to the communities surrounding the airport,” Queens Borough President Donavan Richards said in a statement. “There are several other solutions in terms of connecting our city to its newly reimagined airport that are far more practical and worthy of being explored.”

The report recommends adding a bus lane on the northbound Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for the Q70, which runs between the 61st Street–Woodside station and LaGuardia Airport, and offering more frequent buses. It also suggested adding dedicated lanes for a new shuttle to the last stop of the N/W subway line at the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard subway station.

Hochul inherited the AirTrain from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but the state never broke ground on the 1.5-mile project, the Queens Daily Eagle reported. 

While the Port Authority scored approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for the AirTrain in 2021, the proposal ground to a halt after Hochul asked the Port Authority to review the project and a group of environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against it, citing concerns that the FAA failed to fairly review the AirTrain

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.