By Victoria Merlino
It takes a village to raise an AirTrain.
In the wake of LaGuardia Airport’s $8 billion renovation, more than a dozen groups have banded together to create A Better Way To LGA. The coalition is designed to support the part of the renovation that plans to build an AirTrain to the East Elmhurst airport.
“Queens businesses are forced to pay a hidden Grand Central Parkway tax due to constant traffic on the roads around LaGuardia, delaying deliveries and hurting workers. And it’s only getting worse each year,” Tom Grech, President and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
Besides evaluating the impact of the AirTrain in issues like noise and traffic mitigation, the coalition will also engage the community in regards to key issues and plans for the AirTrain.
In 2017, over 29 million people flew in and out of LaGuardia, and the number is expected to increase by six million by 2030, according to the coalition. Currently, the airport is the only one on the east coast that has no direct rail connection, creating traffic jams down Grand Central Parkway. The opening of the AirTrain is critical in LaGuardia’s redevelopment, according to A Better Way to LGA.
AirTrain construction is expected to start in 2020 and end in 2022, with an allotted budget of $1.5 billion. The renovation of the airport also includes plans to link the four separate terminals into one new one, as well as build the new building closer to the highway, which will allow for more space for planes to taxi.
“The AirTrain will take millions of cars off the road and reduce traffic on our local streets, making it easier for Queens residents to get around, small businesses to make deliveries, and employees and customers to get to work or shop locally,” said Grech. “It’s a proven model that has done wonders for JFK, and we simply can’t wait any longer to move forward on this project.”
The current plan is to have the AirTrain connect with the public transportation system at Mets-Willets Point Station, a stop better known now as the place to get off to go to Citi Field. The station would be renovated to accommodate travelers with luggage, and would serve as a connecting point between the No. 7 train, the Long Island Rail Road and the airport.
“The proposed AirTrain LGA would make the dream of a 30-minute ride from Midtown Manhattan to LaGuardia a reality,” Angela Pinsky, Executive Director of the Association for a Better New York, said in a statement.
Among the groups in the coalition are Association for a Better New York, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue United Airlines, the New York Mets, LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and New York Building Congress.