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Plan for $ 2.1 billion AirTrain to La Guardia suspended

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The brakes have officially been put on the plan to build a $ 2.1 billion AirTrain to La Guardia airport.

The agency that operates the airport, the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, said Tuesday afternoon it would “stay all action” on the project, which had been heavily pushed by former Governor Andrew Mr. Cuomo.

Mr Cuomo’s successor, Governor Kathy Hochul, called for a review of alternatives to the AirTrain plan, which has been the target of criticism from community groups and elected officials.

Among the complaints was that its remote route would deter cyclists and hurt property values ​​in the neighborhoods surrounding La Guardia in North Queens.

Despite these objections, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the AirTrain plan at the end of July, paving the way for the port authority.

But three weeks ago, two Queens-based community groups and Riverkeeper, an environmental group, filed a lawsuit to stop the project, arguing the FAA had ruled out some alternatives without considering them.

The groups also called on the FAA to suspend its approval of the project. The FAA has given the Port Authority until Tuesday to argue against granting a stay. The agency argued, in part, that the break for the exam requested by Ms Hochul made a suspension unnecessary.

“At the request of Governor Hochul, the port authority is undertaking a thorough review of potential alternative public transport options at La Guardia airport,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “The agency will work in close consultation with independent experts and stakeholders, and complete its work as quickly as possible, in line with the need for a thorough and rigorous review.”

Michael Dulong, Senior Counsel for Riverkeeper, welcomed the review. “We are looking for the best public transport alternative for the region and the one that has the least impact on local communities and the environment,” said Mr. Dulong.

Ms Hochul’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Calling last week for a review of “alternative transit solutions” that would reduce car traffic and increase access to the airport, Ms. Hochul said, “We need to make sure our transportation plans are bold, visionaries and meet the needs of newcomers. Yorker.

Before Mr Cuomo abruptly resigned this summer after a state report revealed he had sexually harassed several women, he urged the Port Authority to develop a rail link with La Guardia.

The ongoing overhaul of the airport was one of the governor’s favorite projects. While he was in power, few other elected officials publicly opposed the AirTrain plan, even though the estimated cost rose from $ 450 million to $ 2.1 billion in just a few years.

All of its funding was going to come from the Port Authority, which is jointly controlled by the governors of New York and New Jersey, and fees added to airline tickets. AirTrain passengers would be charged a fare because they are on the AirTrain at Kennedy International Airport. The current price to ride is $ 7.75.

But once Mr. Cuomo was out of power, some elected officials were emboldened to call for the AirTrain plan to be reconsidered or abandoned altogether.

“From the start, we had to deal with an aberrant situation: a governor who would not work with anyone, who created a culture of fear, who rushed through projects, whether good or bad”, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters at a recent City briefing. Room. “And now we have the chance to watch this thing in the light of day.”

One of the most common criticisms of the project was its so-called reverse route. To get to Manhattan, arriving travelers should head further east, away from the airport, to a station near Citi Field before they can turn back on the # 7 subway line or Long Island. Rail Road.

Critics have also said escalating costs will make the project one of the most expensive rail lines in the world.

In its defense, Port Authority officials stressed that the line chosen along the Grand Central Parkway from Willets Point would be the least disruptive to residential areas. Alternatives, including an extension of the N metro line from Astoria, would require the taking of private property, they said.

Besides the metro extension, which is likely to be built by the financially struggling Metropolitan Transportation Authority, other alternatives include an express bus service, ferries, or an AirTrain with a more direct route.

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