LaGuardia Airport rail link highlights NY Gov. Cuomo's transportation and infrastructure plan

LaGuardia Airport rail link highlights NY Gov. Cuomo's transportation and infrastructure plan

NEW YORK — Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans Tuesday to fulfill a long-held dream for New York City travelers: a rail link to LaGuardia Airport, one of the busiest airports in the nation.

The plan calls for an elevated AirTrain that would connect the airport, located in relative isolation in Queens along the Flushing Bay waterfront, with a busy transit hub 1.5 miles away. Cuomo said the train would link the airport to the Willets Point station, which sits opposite the Mets' ballpark and serves the Long Island Rail Road commuter rail and the No. 7 subway line.

"You can't get to LaGuardia by train. That really is inexcusable, and that is going to change," Cuomo said in a speech to a gathering of the business group Association for a Better New York in Manhattan.

The governor's aides said the project would cost approximately $450 million to build — about $300 million per mile — and should be completed within five years. A start date for construction has not been set, and the Legislature must sign off on the project.

Cuomo said the AirTrain would be built next to the Grand Central Parkway because construction there would not disrupt many existing neighborhoods, though it was not immediately clear how the land would be obtained. The construction would be managed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the area's major airports, with coordination with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to the governor's aides.

Similar AirTrain links already exist at John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, and transit advocates have long pushed for a dedicated train, or an extension of an existing subway line, to LaGuardia. Currently, the only mass transit option for LaGuardia is public bus, a rarity among major metropolitan airports.

Cuomo made the announcement during the last of a series of speeches across the state in recent days to preview his State of the State address, which he is scheduled to deliver Wednesday in Albany.

He also repeated his call to modernize the area's airports, highlighting Vice President Joe Biden's recent remark comparing LaGuardia to a "Third World country." Cuomo had previously announced a design competition to modernize both LaGuardia and Kennedy airports and plans to expand a pair of smaller suburban airports to relieve some of the burden from the busy city facilities.

He also called for expanded ferry service to LaGuardia and Kennedy and for a new selection of gate area restaurants — including an outpost of Peter Luger, the famed Brooklyn steakhouse and a personal favorite.

"As governor, you get a few prerogatives," he said to laughter.

Cuomo said the wide-ranging plan — which also includes new subway cars, new commuter rail stops in the Bronx and a replacement for the decaying Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River — would be paid for with a mixture of state funds, the Port Authority budget and some of a recent $5 billion bank settlement to the state.

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