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Cuomo Pitches AirTrain For LaGuardia Airport, Ambitious Transit Upgrades

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is unveiling an ambitious plan to modernize New York's infrastructure and transportation system.

Cuomo spoke Tuesday to the business group Association for a Better New York in Manhattan. He offered a preview of his annual State of the State address scheduled for Wednesday.

The biggest proposal was a rail link to LaGuardia Airport, WCBS 880's Paul Murnane reported.

"You can't get to LaGuardia by train today and that really is inexcusable," the governor said.

Cuomo Pitches AirTrain For LaGuardia Airport

Cuomo proposed building an AirTrain link like the one that serves John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The new 1.5-mile rail line would connect the airport to the current Willets Point station that serves Long Island Rail Road commuters and the No. 7 subway line.

Cuomo aides estimated it will cost $450 million and take five years to finish, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

"It runs basically along the Grand Central Parkway," Cuomo said. "It's basically an industrial area. You're not talking about neighborhoods, etc."

MORE: Additional Info On Cuomo Infrastructure Agenda

The governor's mass transit initiatives also include:

* Modernizing JFK and LaGuardia airports

* Buying 900 new Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway cars

* Buying 1,800 new buses

* Building new Metro-North stations in the Bronx at Co-Op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunt's Point

* Adding a new Metro-North line connecting Westchester to Penn Station

Video Of Cuomo's Speech To The Association for a Better New York

2015 Opportunity Agenda: Building a New NY by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on YouTube

The governor said there is funding for the big-dollar projects from a state settlement with major banks.

His proposals won praise from transit experts.

"Transportation I've always said is the lifeblood of the city," former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said. "(It is) so critical it not only creates jobs but keeps jobs here and keeps New York the capital of the world."

Added former MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander: "It's all doable. I think it's important for New York competitively. The point is how we pay for it. But in terms of making New York more competitive, no question about that the AirTrain connection from the No. 7 to LaGuardia. It is definitely the way to do it."

But Ed Cox, state Republican Party chairman, said he's skeptical of the proposals.

"You need to use it for maintaining the basic infrastructure that you have before you go after some great vision," Cox told Murnane.

Citing the Empire State Building and New York City's system of aqueducts, Cuomo said there is a history of boldness in pushing ahead with major projects.

"There was no building challenge that we shied away from," Cuomo said. "They would say, 'Well, that's never been done before,' and we would say, 'Great, then we should do that.'"

Cuomo Pitches AirTrain For LaGuardia Airport

Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, said she's curious about the price tags for the proposed projects.

"This was very much a big-picture speech meant to enthuse an audience of people who use all of the different infrastructure systems that the governor talked about," she said.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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