Call for proposals issued to evaluate environmental impact of the proposed AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport

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USA: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is inviting consultants to submit proposals for the formal environmental review of the planned AirTrain LGA project.

The environmental impact statement (EIS), which is required by the National Environmental Policy Act, will provide multiple opportunities for public input and examine all potential effects and mitigation measures of the proposed airport rail-link from LaGuardia Airport in Queens to both the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and New York City Transit (NYCT) subway system. It will also further study a range of alternatives to meet the stated goals of providing better access to New York City origins and destinations for passengers via shorter and more reliable-travel times to and from the airport. 

Travel times to LaGuardia Airport via automobile have gone up in recent years and have become highly unpredictable due to increased congestion, which is projected to worsen in the years ahead. 

“As is the case with any critical infrastructure project, public input and a thorough evaluation of all alternatives is paramount,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “Our goal is to provide LaGuardia Airport passengers with a convenient, reliable world-class rail connection with travel times below 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan. We’re grateful for the invaluable community input that has guided our planning thus far and look forward to additional engagement as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proceeds with the formal environmental review.” 

Once the environmental consultant is selected, the review will commence with a Notice of Intent and scoping, the process used to determine the appropriate contents of an EIS. Public participation including a public hearing process is an integral part of scoping, which will be formally announced and widely publicized to solicit comments about what should be included such as relevant local issues, alternatives, and mitigation measures. Additional opportunities for review and comment will occur once a Draft EIS is prepared and made available for a minimum of 45 days, including an additional public hearing process. The FAA will conclude the process with the issuance of a Record of Decision on the project. 

The FAA will be the lead agency responsible for overseeing the EIS in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. 

To support the environmental review and assist in the selection of the consultant, the Port Authority submitted to the FAA a set of initial documents including 1) its analysis of a wide range of alternatives that are on the table as part of the review process; 2) an examination of projected ridership of AirTrain through a passenger preference survey and a ground choice access model; 3) a study on increased traffic congestion between LaGuardia Airport and Midtown Manhattan, the airport’s largest passenger market.

The alternatives analysis identifies 20 options to improve access to the airport, including exclusive bus lanes, improvements to the existing transportation system, ferry service, five separate potential off-airport locations for fixed guideway terminals, and previously proposed extensions of the Astoria subway line.

The alternatives analysis also identifies the Port Authority’s “preferred alternative” as an elevated train operating between LaGuardia and an off-airport station at Willets Point, with transfers to the Long Island Rail Road and the MTA’s No. 7 subway line with direct connections to Grand Central Terminal and New York Penn Station. The Port Authority’s plan calls for two on-airport stations as part of LaGuardia’s $8 billion redevelopment.

The ridership analysis submitted to the FAA indicates that between 6.6 million and 10 million annual trips would be taken on AirTrain LGA in its early years of operation. That range would rise to 8.4-12 million annual trips by 2045.

A study by Sam Schwartz Engineers, a traffic and transportation planning and engineering firm, found that between 2014 and 2017, the number of days on which peak travel times between LGA and Midtown occurred that were greater than 70 minutes, increased more than fivefold – to 114 days of the year. That represents nearly one in every three days. The unpredictable variability of travel times means passengers must budget more and more time to avoid missing a flight. Today, budgeted time from Midtown is approximately an hour. By 2045, in a world of autonomous vehicles and when LaGuardia’s annual passenger volume is anticipated to grow to more than 40 million up from the 2017 record of 29.5 million, the budgeted travel time to and from Midtown is projected to double to nearly two hours.

The RFP and supporting documents can be found here >>>