NEW YORK (AP) — The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey authorized more than $4 billion in rail projects Thursday, including a new rail link to LaGuardia Airport that had been a source of contentious debate in recent years.
The new train connecting midtown Manhattan to LaGuardia and a replacement for Newark Liberty International Airport's monorail will cost about $2 billion each. LaGuardia is one of the few major airports in the U.S. without a rail link, and Newark's air train is 23 years old and increasingly prone to maintenance problems.
The LaGuardia train and a stalled plan to extend PATH rail service from Manhattan to the Newark airport had previously been panned by some board members as being too costly for the amount of passengers they would serve and for taking attention and money away from a desperately needed new bus terminal in New York City.
Since then, the Port Authority conducted a study that estimated a LaGuardia train would serve between 6.6 million and 10 million passenger trips, a number that could increase to as many as 12 million by 2045. Car trips from Manhattan to LaGuardia traverse some of the nation's most congested roads and can take over an hour to go 8 miles.
The current Port Authority 10-year capital plan contains $3.5 billion toward a new bus terminal, which could ultimately carry a price tag as high as $10 billion.
Executive Director Rick Cotton called the past criticisms of the rail plan "unfounded" and called it "irresponsible and indefensible" to delay the LaGuardia project.
"We are 100 percent behind having a workable, high-quality mass transit link to the airport, period," he said.
Both the LaGuardia and Newark trains don't figure to be completed for several years, after environmental permitting, design and preliminary engineering are completed. The Federal Aviation Administration is overseeing an environmental review of the LaGuardia project that will last until 2021, officials said Thursday.
The LaGuardia rail link would connect to the No. 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road at the Willets Point station, which serves Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and the U.S. National Tennis Center, which hosts the U.S. Open each September.
The rail link would take about five or six minutes, officials have projected. Trains into Manhattan from Willets Point take about 15 to 20 minutes.
In other actions Thursday, the Port Authority board approved about $80 million for construction work on its PATH rail line in New Jersey to accommodate longer trains to alleviate overcrowding. PATH Director Clarelle DeGraffe said Thursday the work is expected to begin next July.
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