EAST ELMHURST — An AirTrain over the Queensboro Bridge, an extension of the N train and a rail line from Woodside were all ideas proposed to help travelers get to LaGuardia Airport — but those plans never took off.
Now, travelers will likely have a train ride to the Queens airport following Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announcement of an AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport, which will connect at Willets Point.
The 1.5-mile rail will travel from the 7 and LIRR stations along the Grand Central Parkway to the airport’s terminals, and will cost an estimated $450 million, officials said Tuesday after the announcement.
It's not clear when construction will begin, but a spokeswoman for the governor's office said it should take five years — finally providing rail access to the airport after years of suggestions.
"There have been several different alignments proposed in the past," said Rich Barone, transportation director at the Regional Plan Association.
The group released a study in 2011 suggesting various ways to make traveling to LaGuardia easier.
Suggestions included a separate rail connection from the Woodside station, an extension of the LIRR trains to include a stop at LaGuardia, and a subway ride from Manhattan using the 63rd Street tunnel.
The plan for a rail line from Woodside could have it cross over the BQE and the Grand Central Parkway, and would be more direct than a train from Willets Point, Barone said.
A proposal to extend the N train in Astoria was vetoed by locals and politicians in the late 1990s.
And before the AirTrain to John F. Kennedy Airport was completed in 2003, original plans called for it to travel from Manhattan over the 59th Street Bridge and make a stop at LaGuardia Airport, according to Barone and reports.
The new plan from Willets Point is a start, he said, but he's still unsure how convenient it would be.
The ride on the 7 to Willets Point can be 30 minutes, and on the LIRR it takes 15 minutes, Barone noted.
“When you get [to Willets Point] you have to make sure the connections work, the transfer is easy,” he said, noting the distance between the LIRR and the 7 train stations at Willets Point.
“In order to compete with taxis you have to have a very fast connection. Fast is part of it, convenient is also part of it.”
The majority of airport commuters take cabs to LaGuardia, according to 2011 statistics from the Regional Plan Association.
Selling travelers on a rail option may be difficult, especially since the subway will take riders beyond the airport to link with the AirTrain, Barone said.
The Willets Point location was selected after recommendations by the MTA and the Port Authority, partly because of it's industrial location, a spokeswoman for Cuomo said.
But the location inside Flushing Meadows-Corona Park concerned advocates who feared even more acreage would be used for non-parks activities.
“Flushing Meadows-Corona Park has been a destination for so many infrastructure things that have nothing to do with recreation,” said NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft, who is still fighting the Willets Point redevelopment, including a mega-mall in a Citi Field parking lot, in court.