Back in 2018, former NY Governor Cuomo signed state legislation that would allow for a LaGuardia Airport AirTrain to be built on public land. After a few years of delays, construction was finally approved in July 2021, but now the project is coming to a stop altogether.
Many elected officials and community groups opposed the plan from the start, such as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and State Senator Jessica Ramos, due to its massive cost and potential negative effects on the local Queens community. NY Governor Kathy Hochul halted the project and ordered a review shortly after taking office.
Now, Hochul has officially abandoned plans altogether after the project’s cost skyrocketed from $2.1 billion to a whopping $2.4 billion–which is more than five times the initial estimates, according to The New York Times.
When Cuomo first proposed the project six years ago, he estimated it would cost $450 million.
Instead, a report released this past Monday, March 13, by the Port Authority shows its experts recommending a less expensive option–expanding bus service with all-electric buses and adding a new shuttle bus between the airport and the end of the N/W subway line in Astoria, Queens.
They also proposed improving the MTA’s free Q70-SBS bus to LaGuardia to include transit signal priority in Jackson Heights and Woodside along with a dedicated bus lane along the BQE shoulder between Northern and Astoria boulevards.
“I accept the recommendations of this report, and I look forward to its immediate implementation by the Port Authority in close coordination with our partners in the M.T.A., city and federal government,” Hochul said in a statement.
A statement by former city Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, former Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown, and Denver International Airport CEO Philip Washington, says the bus improvements can be expected within the next two to five years.
The original AirTrain project was part of the $8 billion LaGuardia redevelopment project that intended to turn the airport into a “world-class airport worthy of New York,” as Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton put it.
The AirTrain would allow travelers to get from Midtown to the airport in 30 minutes, a much faster and more reliable journey via public transportation than what’s currently available. The AirTrain would have one station connecting to the NYC Subway via the 7 line, and another to the LIRR via the Port Washington Branch at Mets-Willets Point in Queens.
It was originally supposed to be up and running as soon as 2025, according to the New York Times.