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Cuomo Wants One-Seat Ride From City to JFK as Part of $10 Billion Makeover

By Jeff Mays | January 4, 2017 4:19pm | Updated on January 4, 2017 6:37pm
 A rendering of the new JFK Airport.
A rendering of the new JFK Airport.
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Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

MIDTOWN — New York State will explore creating a direct transportation link between the city and John F. Kennedy International Airport as part of a $10 billion plan to revitalize the hub,  Gov. Andrew Cuomo told business leaders Wednesday.

Speaking at a luncheon of the Association for a Better New York in Midtown, Cuomo didn't offer specifics about how the one-seat ride would be accomplished, but he said the plan is necessary to help JFK compete with airports in other world class cities which surpass New York in terms of quality and ease of access.

Cuomo said New York was "standing still" while other countries are building.

"(L)ook at airports all across the globe and one is better than the next. And as soon as one airport is opened up with a state-of-the-art adaptation, another airport is in competition and is better. And they are all way ahead of where we are," said Cuomo.

"The most impactful developments are what we can do with our airports," he added.

The plan includes a proposal to create a new interconnected terminal that would involve expanding the newer terminals while relocating or demolishing older ones.

The new terminals would have modern amenities such as restaurants and be equipped with the latest security such as facial recognition and video tracking software. The new terminals would also draw in private investment.

READ MORE: JFK's Iconic TWA Terminal To Become $265M Hotel

The airport taxiways would be expanded to decrease flight delays.

The confusing network of roads inside the airport would also be redesigned into a ring road approach to ease use by passenger cars and taxis. The roads leading to JFK would also be redesigned and expanded.

The Kew Gardens interchange, which feeds traffic from the Grand Central Parkway and Jackie Robinson Parkway onto the Van Wyck Expressway, would be expanded to three from two lanes to ease the bottleneck there caused by the 250,000 vehicles per day which use it.

The Van Wyck Expressway would also be expanded to three lanes from two lanes with a high occupancy vehicle lane for buses. The change would also reduce bottlenecks and emissions by 30 percent per year while saving 10.8 million gallons of gas.

In addition to exploring how to create a one-seat ride to the airport, changes would be made to the AirTrain such as increasing the length of each train to four cars from two and increasing their frequency.

That change will help double capacity on the AirTrain to 40 million passengers per year from 21 million, said outgoing MTA CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast.

Changes are also coming to the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station where passengers coming from subway and train links catch the AirTrain.

Prendergast said the station would be made easier to navigate and redesigned to look as if passengers are entering an airport environment.

After an incident at JFK this summer where panic was caused by false reports of gunfire, all police agencies at the airport will receive the same training. Civilian employees will also receive safety training.

Cuomo said reports of security guards spreading false reports of the shooting and running were troubling.

"The anxiety is so high now in these airports," said Cuomo. "People go in nervous."

The changes to the airport would cost between $7 and $8 billion and the traffic changes would cost between $1.5 and $2 billion. The one-seat ride proposal is only in the exploratory phase and no costs have been attached to the project.

READ MORE: LaGuardia Airport Will Be Rebuilt by 2021 for $4 Billion, Cuomo Says

Gert-Jan de Graaff, president and CEO of JFKIAT, which runs Terminal 4 at JFK, said a one-seat ride to JFK is critical to the airport's future because the current AirTrain is "cumbersome" to access.

"I know it's very complicated and probably very costly to develop but I think that's the Achilles heel of the airport," said de Graaff.

"One single ride from the airport to the city and the other way around will improve things tremendously for people."

The Partnership for New York City released the results from a survey that found that 52 percent of business travelers avoided flying into the metro area airports for a meeting in the last 12 months while 1 in 3 reported having to reschedule or cancel a meeting due to an airport delay during the same time period.

The survey of 3,763 business travelers from 74 major employers also found that 72 percent of business travelers now use private cars to get to the airport but 71 percent would use mass transit if a direct rail link to Manhattan existed.

"New York is losing billions in economic activity every year because of difficult access and the limited capacity at our airports," said Partnership President & CEO Kathryn Wylde.

Joseph Sitt, chairman and founder of Global Gateway Alliance, a group that focuses on improving the city's airports and infrastructure, said the one-seat ride element of Cuomo's plan should be the most urgent.

"That part of the plan needs to move from 'exploring' to 'doing,'" Sitt said in a statement.

Air traffic control technology at the airport needs to be updated and the runways also need to be expanded to deal with delays, "otherwise better airports will just be nicer places to be stuck waiting," he added.