America's worst airport is finally getting a long-overdue makeover. In a televised conference with Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the notoriously chaotic terminal and its surrounding transportation facilities would be overhauled in a massive reconstruction project, scheduled to begin in 2016 and end by late 2020 or early 2021. The governor added that a partial reopening was slated to begin in early 2019 as crews finished up the final months of building, and debuted photos of what the new LaGuardia Airport will look like when completed.
LaGuardia is known by frequent fliers for its regular delays and out-of-date interiors (Biden once lambasted the airport for looking like a facility straight out of a "third-world country," and Cuomo himself complained heavily of the embarrassing front entryway during the conference). Cuomo announced that the new updates will not only provide New Yorkers with 8,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs, but will also give the metropolitan area an airport befitting a busy, modern city.
"New York had an aggressive, can-do approach to big infrastructure in the past — and today, we’re moving forward with that attitude once again," Cuomo stated. "We are transforming LaGuardia into a globally-renowned, 21st century airport that is worthy of the city and state of New York."
According to real estate developer Dan Tishman, CEO of Tishman Construction Company and Chair of the Governor’s Airport Master Plan Advisory Panel, who will be spearheading the project, the most important change implemented in the makeover would be to unify all the gates in a single terminal. Wrote Tishman and his colleagues in an overview of the reconstruction:
Twelve airlines serve nearly 70 non-stop destinations from 73 gates spread across four passenger terminals. ... LaGuardia should look and feel like a single, unified terminal both from within and outside the airport complex. The airport should form a complete, efficient and appealing experience for passengers, with a consistent aesthetically pleasing facade worthy of a world-class airport serving one of the world’s premier cities.
A new airport tram system for quickly transporting travelers from gate to gate, a passenger bridge under which planes might have additional room to taxi, and two more miles of airstrips will allow for greater ease of operation and fewer gate delays, which currently chronically plague the system. More access for public transportation to and from the airport, including a connecting rail link and ferry service, would be added as well.
"... Ferry service operation to the Marine Air Terminal and, if feasible, to the east end of the airport as well, [will be added on]," wrote the group. They explained that the new service would give the public more transportation options to and from the airport, freeing up the congested roadways even further.
With New York a central hub to many business travelers, the new design will also include "business and conference center capabilities," additional shopping, and the option for travelers to stay onsite as needed with the construction of a brand-new airport hotel.
"Common in most world-class airports, a boutique hotel located in the airport’s new central hall would provide passengers with a convenient overnight option and conference facilities," Tishman and his colleagues wrote.
The entire project is expected to cost around $4 billion, with Wired reporting that additional "undisclosed" funding stemming from air travel behemoth Delta would also be made available. It is likely that the construction will take place in two phases, but it was unclear whether regular operations will be disbanded pending partial completion in 2019.
Regardless of the project's enormity and daunting nature, Cuomo is confident about the exciting changes. "This is what New Yorkers deserve and have deserved for a long time," he explained. "And now we’re going to get it."
Images: Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo/Flickr (3)