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LaGuardia AirTrain Plan Would Put Airport Parking at Willets Point

By Katie Honan | February 8, 2017 8:47am
 A rendering of the new proposed LaGuardia Airport.
A rendering of the new proposed LaGuardia Airport.
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Office of NYS Governor

EAST ELMHURST — The Port Authority has issued a request for proposals for the AirTrain to LaGuardia — with expanded airport parking at Willets Point included in the requirements.

The AirTrain was first announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his state of the borough speech in 2015 and will connect travelers from the Willets Point 7 and Long Island Rail Road trains. 

"The millions of passengers who travel through LaGuardia each year deserve a convenient and reliable mass transit option that connects this key transportation hub to the heart of Manhattan," Cuomo said in a press release on Monday.

The RFP is due in four weeks and the company awarded the contract will produce a report on the plan within a year, officials said. The preliminary work will focus on the construction of up to two AirTrain stations at the airport and a station at Willets Point.

It will also focus on the "right of way" for the train, officials said. The preliminary route for the estimated six-minute ride will travel along the Grand Central Parkway to the airport, although more specific information was not yet available.

Officials said the winning proposal will also look at developing expanded parking and a centralized car rental at the Willets Point hub.

DNAinfo New York reported in 2016 that Cuomo was eyeing the Iron Triangle — which is currently being razed by the city for planned environmental remediation and development — for expanded airport parking. 

It's not clear where along the site the parking would be centered, and how it affects the city's plan, which is currently in litigation, to develop residential and commercial buildings on the site. 

The cost of the AirTrain is also not immediately clear. When it was announced in 2015, the estimated cost of the AirTrain was $450 million. 

But part of the RFP requires an evaluation of a "public-private partnerships and other financing options to identify the most advantageous financing plan for the AirTrain," according to officials.

Officials have tried for years to develop an easier ride to LaGuardia Airport, suggesting options including a separate rail connection from the Woodside LIRR station and a subway ride from Manhattan using the 63rd Street tunnel. 

​Despite bus options to the airport, more than 60 percent of fliers currently travel to the airport by car, according to the Port Authority. 

Officials hope the AirTrain will reduce these numbers and create a faster ride.

"With the transformation of LaGuardia Airport already underway, figuring out how to make travel to and from the airport easier for New Yorkers is a key part of improving the overall traveling experience," Rep. Joe Crowley said. "Making the airport rail-accessible will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal and this announcement marks a critical step in making the AirTrain a reality."