Bill advances LaGuardia AirTrain project

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The LaGuardia Airport AirTrain moved a step closer to reality Monday when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill.

The measure provides the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey with multiple options to construct the elevated train service aimed at complementing an $8 billion overhaul of the 79-year old airport. The State Department of Transportation is authorized under the bill to acquire land in designated sections of Queens already owned by New York City or the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, with no private property impacted.

"AirTrain LGA will set an example of comprehensive transit infrastructure for the rest of the nation, and will pay dividends for decades by connecting riders to transit hubs across the Metropolitan area," Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo said an environmental review is slated to begin later this year in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration. Construction is slated to start in 2020 and conclude in 2022.

The Port Authority, which operates LaGuardia, is working collaboratively with the MTA to build a new complex at the Mets-Willets Point station next to Citi Field with transfer options between the Long Island Rail Road or 7 subway line. The AirTrain, which is slated to run every four minutes, is expected to take six minutes to travel from Mets-Willets Point Station to LaGuardia. Cuomo said he estimates a commuting time of less than 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan to the airport.

"For too long, LaGuardia Airport has had the dubious distinction of being the only major East Coast airport without a rail link, and that is unacceptable," said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. "Simply put, a 21st century airport must meet global standards, and that requires rail mass transit access.”

The Port Authority selected Parsons Brinckerhoff in May 2017 to lead the preliminary engineering and design process for up to two new AirTrain stations at LaGuardia Airport's new unified terminals, the planned complex at Mets-Willets Point and an elevated guideway. The bi-state agency budgeted $1.5 billion for the project in its latest capital plan.

The New York Transportation Development Corp. sold $2.4 billion of special facilities bonds in May 2016 for the airport modernization project, which includes plans for a new 35-gate Terminal B, central hall and a connecting concourse. The conduit issuer also sold another $1.39 billion of special facilities bonds in April for redevelopment of Delta Air Lines Terminals C and D.

The Port Authority is one of the nation's largest municipal bond issuers with around $20 billion in outstanding debt. The transportation agency has bond ratings of Aa3 from Moody's Investors Service and AA-minus from S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings.

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