The head of the contracting
consortium that will remake New York’s LaGuardia Airport said last week that
passengers will be able to get to their gates “with very little disruption”
during the first three or four years of the project.
“Our goal is to construct the
new facility with very minimal impact on the existing facility,” LaGuardia
Gateway Partners CEO Stewart Steeves said in a phone interview last week.
His comments came one day
after New York governor Andrew Cuomo, flanked by vice president Joe Biden, held
what officials referred to as a groundbreaking on the $4 billion project, even
though the June 14 news conference lacked the shovels, hard hats and grip-and-grin
photos ubiquitous to such occasions.
The LaGuardia renovation,
which is overseen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will
involve the demolition and replacement of LaGuardia’s main terminal, Terminal
B. Trains will be built to connect commuters to the Long
Island Railroad and ferry passengers around the airport. New infrastructure
will be built for high-speed water taxis into Manhattan. The entire terminal
area will be moved 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway, providing more
space for airplane taxiways.
Preliminary construction is
underway, Steeves said, with workers beginning to pile up materials for the new
West parking garage. But LaGuardia passengers are more likely to begin noticing
the work in the late summer or early fall. That’s when construction starts on
that garage and when the existing West garage is demolished to make room for
the new terminal entryway, where check-in and security will be located. Another
early project will be construction of the central heating and air conditioning
for the airport, Steeves said.
All told, the LaGuardia
rebuild is expected to take more than five years, with two-thirds of the $4
billion to be shouldered by the private sector and by existing airport fees,
Delta Air Lines plans to renovate terminals C and D,
which it controls. The airline and the city have yet to strike a deal on the
work, but at the news conference last week, Henry Kuykendall, a Delta vice
president, asserted the carrier’s commitment to redeveloping those terminals on
a parallel track with the remainder of the project.
complete, LaGuardia’s terminals B,C and D will be unified into one, with
passengers reaching the gates from check-in via bridges that cross over the
taxiway. The Marine Air Terminal (Terminal A), which is not being rebuilt, will
remain separate but is expected to be connected to the remainder of the
airport via air train. The entire project, including the Delta terminals, will
cost an estimated $7 billion, according to Cuomo.
Watchdog groups, while
supportive of the rebuild, say that so much work will naturally result in hassles,
service limitations and traffic backups.
“There will likely be periods
of time when the airport will have reduced capacity to deal with traffic. I
think that’s normal,” said Richard Barone, vice president of transportation for
the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit that advocates for public works
projects in the New York metropolitan area.
Steeves said that wasn’t so,
at least as it relates to Terminal B and the remainder of the work that
LaGuardia Gateway Partners is overseeing. The consortium, he said, is working
with airlines to make sure flights won’t be disrupted.
“No arrangements are being
made with other airports,” Steeves said. “We will accommodate all traffic that
currently serves LaGuardia at LaGuardia.”
As for passengers, they will
continue to use the existing terminals while the new ones are built alongside,
behind, in front of and over the existing facility, Steeves said. In fact,
LaGuardia Gateway Partners plans to improve some services in the existing main
terminal, including restrooms and concessions, while construction is ongoing.
Once the facilities are
finished, sometime around 2020, operations will be transferred and the existing
terminals will be demolished and turned into taxiways. Steeves said the one
area where LaGuardia customers should expect to encounter hassles during
construction is driving to the airport. He suggested that once construction is
underway people check road conditions and traffic reports as they plan their
Like the Regional Planning
Association’s Barone, Joe Sitt, chairman of Global Gateway Alliance, which advocates
on New York-area airport issues, isn’t quite as bullish about what LaGuardia
passengers will encounter in the coming years.
The contracting team, he said
in an email, “must now work with the Port Authority to anticipate and mitigate
these issues for the more than 28 million passengers who use the airport every
Sitt also called on the Port
Authority to launch a website that tracks the progress and expenditures of the
CORRECTION: The Marine Air Terminal (Terminal A) won't be part of the $4 billion LaGuardia renovation.