June 10, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Passengers going to and from LaGuardia Airport got some good news recently when city officials and the MTA announced a dedicated express lane for the M60 bus. But councilman Ydanis Rodriquez, chair of the city council’s transportation committee, says that the city, state and feds need to fund a direct rail link to the airport to accommodate a growing population and alleviate overcapacity. WATCH VIDEO INTERVIEW
Earlier this year Governor Andrew Cuomo announced almost $4 billion worth of renovations to LaGuardia, which will include a new central terminal building along with new restaurants, shopping areas, parking garages and free WiFi. But not included in the announcement was funding for transporting passengers to and from a renovated LaGuardia via a rail connection that is a very common feature at major airports in Europe and Asia.
In an interview, CM Rodriquez said he is happy with the governor’s commitment to renovate the airport terminal but also said a rail connection has to be included to conveniently transport millions of passengers.
“I believe this is something that is needed. I hope in the next couple of months we can come together…including leaders in Albany and Washington D.C. to make sure that we can put together a capital plan to build a train [that connects] to LaGuardia,” CM Rodriquez said.
The MTA seriously considered extending the N Train to the airport back in the late ‘90s but eventually shelved the plan, although its northern terminus is less than three miles away from LaGuardia terminals.
CM Rodriguez favors the city paying for an upgraded version of the study the MTA performed in the late ‘90s. He expects a $1 billion minimum to complete the project over several years.
“What they need to do is only to upgrade that study. We know that any project that involves connecting any particular location with a train is $1 billion.”
The fight for infrastructure and transportation dollars is happening right now in Washington because Congress has yet to authorize new funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which expires in August.
But while Washington wrangles over transportation funding, countries in Asia, particularly China, are expanding rail connections. In fact, China recently announced deals with East European and African countries to help them build out high-speed rail networks.
However, CNBC did report in February that more airports in the United States are adding downtown rail connections as a means to boost business, the most recent being the DART Rail Orange Line trains that will connect to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport later this year.
CM Rodriguez says New York will have to think big.
“We should be thinking big and I believe that we have to connect that airport with a train system.”
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