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La Guardia AirTrain project gets FAA approval

By | July 21, 2021

Preliminary work on 1.5-mile rail connection could begin this summer

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Map showing La Guardia AirTrain and connections
Map showing La Guardia AirTrain and connections
A map shows the planned La Guardia AirTrain and its connections to Manhattan. (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)

NEW YORK — After a recent pause to consider objections from environmentalists, residents, and legislators, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved La Guardia Airport’s  Air Train project.

The New York Times reports the approval means preliminary work could begin later this summer for the construction of the 1.5-mile line connecting the airport to subway and Long Island Rail Road lines at Willets Point in Queens.

The FAA had delayed final approval of the $2.1 billion project in June in light of questions about the environmental review process, as well as concerns from community groups [see “Digest: Canadian government proposes delay …,” Trains News Wire, June 21, 2021].

The project was first proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo six years ago, and has seen its estimated cost grow from $450 million. Its indirect route — a 6-minute trip to the southeast to Willits Point, where passengers would transfer to the No. 7 subway or LIRR to head west to Grand Central or Penn station — has drawn criticism, as has its potential impact on nearby residents.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees La Guardia, has requested proposals to design, build, and operate the AirTrain. It plans to choose a winning bidder next year, with operation beginning in 2025.

7 thoughts on “La Guardia AirTrain project gets FAA approval

  1. Better than the current cluster mess that is there now, but a one seat ride using a subway extension would have been a much better decision. Makes me appreciate cities with direct service like Philly, O’Hare, Midway and DC. Of course, I have used the connections at Boston, Newark, BWI, SFO and others, but after a long flight, trudging up and down moving stairs with luggage to go from a skytrain or a bus to the regular transit system is unnecessarily grueling.
    I recall reading that it has to do with funding restrictions on airports that preclude financing public transit in favor of the mini-driverless train systems.

    1. Regarding SFO, BART is as close as it was going to get, with there being a major parking lot between the terminals there was almost no way it was going to actually serve the terminals directly…besides the fact the way the airport is designed didn’t leave room for it. Also, depending on which terminal you’re using you can go directly from or to the BART station without using the automated transit system.

  2. STEVEN — Very well said. Getting to LGA is a hot mess. That being said I will defend the two-seat proposal.

    A one-seat subway or the LIRR would get you to one point at the airport, because that’s what subways and the LIRR do. A transfer to local transit at many airports (be it a bus or a people mover or “skytrain”) distributes you to the various terminals and might also take in remote parking, rental car, employee parking, etc.

    Thus the Silver Line at BOS Logan International Airport. For the purists out there – I was a purist before I actually rode the Silver Line for the first time – it’s not steel-wheel transit. It’s a bus that runs diesel or electric overhead wires, depending on where on the journey. It’s not especially fast. It does however pick up at each terminal.

    Before the Silver Line it was four seats to from Logan Airport to North Quincy — airport shuttle bus, Blue Line, Green Line and Red Line. This month’s trip, two seats, Silver Line and Red Line. Free from Airport to North Quincy, two fares from North Quincy to Logan.

    Now Steven, if you want to do something social useful figure out what to do at DTW Detroit Metropolitan. It’s difficult to get around the airport, let alone from the airport to the real world. The fixed – wheel transit line in one concourse (of two) at the McNamara Terminal (Delta and affiliate Air France – KLM) is a total joke. It doesn’t go anywhere and cannot be extended because it’s above ground level- for it to be extended a taxiing airplane would run smack into it.

  3. Please don’t overlook the need for a serious improvement in police presence. Right now you enter a game of Russian roulette every time you ride the NYC subway system. This proposed line will be a magnet for career predators if not funded and policed 24/7.

  4. I’m impressed it was proposed 6 years ago at a cost of $450 million; now that 1.5 mile “connection” is supposed to cost $2.1 BILLION & be in operation by 2025. What could possibly go wrong? $2.1 billion for a mile & a half …and 6 minutes to travel 1.5 miles?? –come on now.

  5. SEPTA’s PHL Airport Line uses conventional commuter equipment. Currently some of the trains originate at Warminster Station, others at Glenside or other stations on the Reading side. Trains pass through Center City, then continue to the Airport. At the Airport, there are four stations serving six terminals.

    https://septa.org/schedules/rail/pdf/air.pdf

  6. The big questions – why did FAA approve this abomination? Why did PA push for it? On the latter, reminds me of how about 30 years ago the PA’s chair, who apparently went everywhere in the back of a limo, said that no one would ever want to take a train to an airport. What they finally built, the cute little thing over the Van Wyck, cost a fortune, got a test driver killed, and created an expensive 2 seat (really 2 system, maybe 2 seat) ride if you could figure out how to do it. Now they plan to repeat that painful choice. I’m hoping that lawsuits stop this absurdity.

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