By David Shepardson
(Reuters) – New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Monday the state will scrap a planned light-rail train to connect the city’s LaGuardia Airport after a study found the costs of the proposed train had jumped and instead proposed upgrading bus service.
Hochul put the AirTrain project on hold in late 2021 that her predecessor Andrew Cuomo had backed and estimated would cost $2.1 billion but is now forecast to cost at least $2.4 billion. She said she was grateful an expert panel provided “a clear, cost-effective path forward with an emissions-free transit solution.”
The Port Authority plans to bring a planning authorization request to the board for approval in the next 60 to 90 days, to start the process to fund costs associated with improving bus service.
LaGuardia, the smallest of the New York City’s three major airports, is the 25th busiest U.S. airport by passengers.
The panel said in a 450-page report the Port Authority should instead improve existing municipal bus service and add new non-stop airport shuttle service and dedicated bus lanes connecting to the end of a subway line in Queens rather than pay for new train service.
The report estimated the AirTrain project would cost $2.4 billion and take six to seven years to complete, compared with just under $500 million in capital costs to expand bus service.
Riders Alliance praised the decision Monday, saying “it’s so refreshing to see government leaders admit a mistake and change course before it’s too late…. Much better bus service is the right answer both for Queens riders and the travelers who pass through their neighborhoods on the way to the airport.”
Connecting the airport by subway would cost around $6.2 billion and estimated to take 12 years.
The panel said faced other hurdles including that it would run past the southern end of one LaGuardia runway. Experts were unable to determine the viability of underground tunneling that would comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)