Disputed LaGuardia AirTrain Plan Gets Federal Approval

EAST ELMHURST, QUEENS — Governor Andrew Cuomo’s controversial plan to build an AirTrain from Willetts Point to LaGuardia Airport is one step nearer to changing into a actuality after receiving federal approval on Tuesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the proposed project plan on Tuesday, giving the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which runs the airport and already approved $2 billion in funding for the project final year — the go-ahead to begin development.

Governor Cuomo, who introduced in April that the project is within the state’s 2022 funds, has constantly stated that the AirTrain will “cut down travel time” regardless of opposing claims from transit consultants, in addition to pushback from native residents and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Cuomo first proposed the AirTrain in 2015 as a part of his $8 billion effort to redevelop LaGuardia Airport, which continues to be underway.

Last September, the FAA held public workshops and hearings on the project’s draft environmental review. In November, regardless of a whole lot of feedback in opposition to the project and dozens of project options, the FAA concluded that the one “feasible” various to Cuomo’s plan was to do nothing at all.

In response to the FAA’s conclusion, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez requested company officers to clarify why they eradicated various plans that might lengthen current transportation choices to the airport.

“This decision will have a lasting impact on thousands of people in our community,” Ocasio-Cortez stated. “It’s imperative that we understand why further investment and improvement of other transit options have been ruled out.”

In addition to pushback from group members, some transit consultants have lengthy maligned the project, arguing that the Air Train may worsen congestion and visitors — regardless of its efforts to do the oposite.

“Compared to existing transit services, most riders using the AirTrain would spend more time traveling to LaGuardia than they do now,” transit expert Yonah Freemark wrote in 2015, when Cuomo introduced the plan.

Benjamin Kabak, editor of the transportation web site Second Ave. Sagas, referred to as the AirTrain “a $2 billion boondoggle with few transit benefits being driven solely by the governor’s whims” in a Streetsblog op-ed.

Cuomo, and others inside his administration, imagine in any other case.

“For too long, LaGuardia Airport has had the dubious distinction of being the only major East Coast airport without a rail link, and that is unacceptable,” Rick Cotton, the Port Authority director and a Cuomo appointee, stated in June 2018.

Following Tuesday’s choice by the FAA, Cuomo issued a press release saying that the AirTrain will function a “reliable, efficient, and affordable transit connector .”

“As we come out of the COVID crisis, our state and our country have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in a resilient, transformative, and interconnected future, and today’s announcement is a testament to our ‘all aboard’ commitment to seizing it,” he stated.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce additionally issued a press release in help of the project, citing the “3,000 construction jobs” and “$500 million in contracting opportunities” that it’s going to supply.

“This investment in LaGuardia Airport will catalyze economic activity that supports local businesses and local communities, and comes at a time when many small businesses in Queens are struggling to survive after a difficult year,” the group wrote.

In its personal approval assertion, the FAA described the project as a “reliable transit option for air travelers and employees at LGA.”

In addition to connecting the airport to the 7 line and the Long Island Rail Road at Mets-Willets Point, the project consists of passenger walkways, a parking storage connector, public transportation, and floor transportation services, in line with the FAA.

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