Delay-plagued LaGuardia Airport to be rebuilt

An artist's impression of the new LaGuardia Airport. The current airport is a collection of disconnected, dilapidated terminals and it languishes at the bottom of rankings for on-time departures year after year.
An artist's impression of the new LaGuardia Airport. The current airport is a collection of disconnected, dilapidated terminals and it languishes at the bottom of rankings for on-time departures year after year.PHOTO: OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK

NEW YORK • LaGuardia Airport, whose dilapidated terminals and unenviable record of flight delays have made it a target of jokes and complaints for decades, is to be completely rebuilt by 2021.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, estimates the overhaul will cost US$4 billion (S$5.5 billion), most of which will go towards tearing down the Central Terminal Building, rebuilding it and adding a grand entrance.

The project "replaces the airport in its entirety", New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. He said officials and planners had concluded that there was no way to fix LaGuardia and that it had to be torn down and rebuilt.

Mr Daniel Tishman, a developer who heads the master plan committee, said the idea was to create an aesthetically pleasing, unified airport in place of the collection of disconnected, decades-old terminals that form the airport.

Key buildings will be located further south to allow the creation of 3km of new taxiways that officials say will help alleviate the airport's chronic delays.

Travellers will also have better options to get to LaGuardia. The plan calls for a rail link between the airport and a New York subway station, as well as re-establishing a ferry service to the airport.

Vice-President Joe Biden famously compared LaGuardia to something a traveller might find "in a Third World country". However, Mr Biden took part in the announcement of the plan, praising Mr Cuomo and other officials for pressing ahead with the overhaul.

The project will begin next year and will create 8,000 construction jobs and additional permanent jobs in the expanded airport, which will have more stores, restaurants and possibly a conference centre and hotel. "Best of all, it's not a plan, it's not a sketch, it's not a dream, it's not a vision," Mr Cuomo said. "It is actually happening."

LaGuardia is not just one of the most delay-plagued airports in the US, but one of the busiest of its size in the world.

It was built when air travel was a luxury and still something of a novelty. Its outmoded set-up and the air traffic density in the New York area leave LaGuardia languishing at the bottom of rankings for on-time performance year after year.

So far this year, LaGuardia ranks last among the 29 largest US airports in on-time departures, with slightly more than 70 per cent of its flights counted as on time.

Mr Cuomo said his administration will also design a master plan for New York's busiest hub, John F. Kennedy International Airport, over the next 12 months.

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Delay-plagued LaGuardia Airport to be rebuilt'. Print Edition | Subscribe