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AOC Questions $2 Billion LaGuardia AirTrain Plan in Letter to FAA

Jan. 14, 2020 By Allie Griffin

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in on the contentious $2 billion plan to build an AirTrain from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport on Friday.

Ocasio-Cortez questioned why several alternative options for transportation to LaGuardia were eliminated from further consideration in a Jan. 10 letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In November, the FAA — which conducted an environmental review of the plan — concluded that the best option for public transportation to the airport is the AirTrain proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and preferred by the Port Authority.

The FAA eliminated all other options as unviable based on the conclusion that they were not “reasonable to construct and operate.”

In her letter to the FAA, Ocasio-Cortez demanded a detailed explanation why the agency ruled out 46 alternative plans — specifically ferry service, dedicated bus lanes for Q70 buses, an extension of the N,W subway line from Astoria and an Airtrain connecting LIRR and the 7 train at the Roosevelt Avenue-Jackson Heights station.

Many of the alternatives were suggested by members of the public during a public commentary period. More than 100 commenters suggested extending the N, W subway line as an alternative and the majority of respondents opposed the AirTrain proposal.

The FAA reported that 255 area residents gave feedback from May through June 2019 in opposition to the AirTrain for a variety of reasons — while just 55 supported it.

The AirTrain would connect to riders on the Long Island Railroad and 7 train line at the Willets Point Station, where they could transfer to the fixed guideway and take it to LaGuardia Airport.

However, many respondents said that the 7 subway line is already overcrowded and can’t support additional riders, particularly those with luggage.

Critics have also denounced the project’s swollen price tag — it was originally estimated to cost $450 million when it was proposed in 2015 — and questioned whether it would cut commuting time to the airport.

The route sends Manhattan travelers further into Queens, past the airport, before they can transfer to the AirTrain LGA at the Willets Point station.

Proposed AirTrain LGA Map (A Better Way to LGA)

“Given the results of the public comments, and concerns raised by community members of the cost, impact and practicality of the fixed guideway to Willets Point, I request clarification on why the following alternatives were eliminated from further consideration as viable options for improved access to LaGuardia,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

The Port Authority aims to complete the AirTrain by 2022.

Public information sessions on the project will be held tonight and tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Ballroom (lobby level) of the New York LaGuardia Airport Marriott, located at 102-05 Ditmars Blvd.

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Larry Penner

In 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated the cost would be $450 million with a completion date of 2019. I predicted that both his cost and promised completion date were unrealistic. Both have proven to be true. The original Port Authority 2017 – 2026 capital budget plan lists this project at $1 billion. It was subsequently revised to $1.5 billion several years ago and today it stands at $2 billion. The revised completion date is now end of 2022. I predict 2024. Costs will be further refined as the project progresses through the environmental review process, preliminary and final design, award of construction contracts, followed by change orders to the base contracts during construction, due to last minute changes in scope or unforeseen site conditions. The anticipated final potential cost for the Air Train could end up several hundred to a billion dollars more. Don’t be surprised when the Port Authority increases tolls to finance cost overruns. Everyone already knows that there is no spare capacity on either the #7 subway or Long Island Rail Road Port Washington branch during rush hours to accommodate several thousand additional potential Air Train riders. Only Governor Cuomo, the Port Authority, their consultants along with labor unions and construction contractors who would benefit by this project, refuse to acknowledge this reality.


Larry Penner

Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, NYC Transit, MTA Bus, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, NYC Department of Transportation and Nassau Inter County Express Bus along with 30 other NY & NJ transit agencies).

Daily commuter

Where’s Jessica Ramos ?
Doesn’t she want to say anything about this or the buses in Jackson Heights ?

Master planner

The only reasonable way is to extend N traib to LGA. Pay owners of houses on its way 150% of their home value and move them out. Will be fair for everyone.


Probably the first time I agree with AOC on anything. The plan should be revised, reviewed, rediscussed with riders, not with Gov. Cuomo who travels everywhere in his car. Doesn’t make much sense to go all the way to the Queens’ depth to change onto AirTrain. And #7 train?! Forgedaboudit!

stan chaz

Whether or not you agree with AOC’s politics is a separate issue.
I thank her for bucking the system once to try to find a better way to do this, while everyone else just sits on their behinds and accepts what’s handed to them.
This wrong-headed plan may be a boon for Long Islanders who use the LIRR, but NOT for City residents.
It’s a ridiculous waste of traveling time (and civic funds) to force air travelers to take a several mile zig-zag detour AWAY from the heart of the City, just to get to and from LaGuardia Airport.
It’s a farce conceived by out-of-touch planners – and/or State pols looking to gain favor with Long Islanders.
By far the best plan is to extend the Astoria N/W Train in Queens (perhaps from the 30th Ave. station along the Grand Central Parkway as one option). An N.W train link would bring air travelers into the City & boroughs much more directly, and much faster.
After all, isn’t that the goal?


Though I agree mostly with you comment, I think extending the N/W is a bad idea, the W doesn’t even run in the weekends and the N is completely unreliable (not that the 7 is to much better recently in that department) an Airtrain from 61st Woodside would probably be the quickest and easiest for everyone involved. But that’s just my opinion.


The N ,W plan is better if you live in Astoria, Manhattan or LIC not for people living in Jamaica, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Flushing, Maspeth, etc. New York City is not only the west side of the it, and if the airports are located in Queens and we are the ones who “suffer” the traffic jams let’s have the best not your leftovers.p


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