LaGuardia Airport to get $3.6 billion makeover

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Developments at LaGuardia Airport will make way for larger aircraft that burn cleaner and omit fewer emissions.
Developments at LaGuardia Airport will make way for larger aircraft that burn cleaner and omit fewer emissions.

LaGuardia Airport’s $3.6 billion facelift is getting ready for its closeup.

The terminal, built in 1964 and designed to hold eight million passengers, is set to undergo a series of developments over the next six to 10 years. According to Thomas Bosco, LaGuardia Airport’s general manager, 11 million people travel through the airport each year, and estimates that by 2030, the number will reach 17.5 million passengers.

“[The terminal] is over 50 years old. It’s beyond its useful life,” said Bosco. “It’s virtually obsolete in every functional area.”

The main developments will occur mostly on the aeronautic side, pushing the terminal considerably closer to the Grand Central Parkway to accommodate larger capacity aircraft. Currently, the 35 gate terminal houses DC-9 planes which require towing by ground vehicles to go from the runway to the gate.

LaGuardia Airport accommodates about 1,150 planes daily – roughly a thousand fewer crafts than land at JFK Airport every 24 hours. While Bosco said the expansion will not increase turnaround due to federal regulation caps at 75 flights per hour, upgrading to larger aircraft will accommodate the airport’s growth in the number of passengers. The larger planes are quieter, burn cleaner fuel and emit fewer emissions and decrease the average number of delayed flights – providing what Bosco believes is a more ecologically friendly environment.

“You’re not stopping, you’re not using ground support vehicles and you’re not blocking other planes as they’re trying to leave,” he said.

According to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, an external contractor will be hired to conduct an environmental assessment, ensuring the expansion will not harm local ecosystems or cause mass amounts of pollution. The agency will examine factors such as noise, hazardous materials, wetlands and water and air quality. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not be consulted as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the lead agency handling the development.

The LaGuardia Airport development is also slated to create much-needed permanent jobs. According to Bosco, for every one million passengers, the FAA’s Regional Air Service Demand study cited an increase in 4,100 jobs and $4 billion in annual economic activity. The airport executive estimates there will also be a boom in the number temporary construction jobs, somewhere in the thousands.

Bosco said construction on the main terminal will begin in the fall of 2014 and last for the next six to 10 years. Regardless of the development, Bosco said flights will not be moved to other city airports and the transit hub is expected to remain fully operational.

“The challenge here is to do open heart surgery on the marathon runner while she’s running a marathon,” said Bosco. “We’ve got to build an entire new terminal of 35 gates while we’re operating the existing terminal with 35 gates, and that’s the challenge – but we think we’re up to the task.”

According to a spokesperson from the Port Authority, the project’s multibillion-dollar cost will be carried by a combination of Port Authority sale of Bonds, a $4.50 passenger facility charge tagged on to every airline ticket, and a possible partnership with a private company, yet to be determined.