Aviation News

May 31, 2017

What’s Happening at LaGuardia?

It was the phrase that launched a thousand headlines. Vice President Joe Biden came to New York in 2014, and in the middle of a speech about the importance of rebuilding America’s infrastructure, he likened LaGuardia to a Third World airport. Since that speech three years ago, three major projects have been set in motion that will radically reshape the face of the nation’s 20th busiest airport.

Project 1: Central Terminal Building replacement

Designed in an era of propeller-driven airliners like Vickers Viscounts and Lockheed Constellations, LaGuardia’s Central Terminal Building (Terminal B) opened in 1964, and was functionally obsolete almost from Day 1, as within a few years, that last generation of propliners were replaced with the first generation of jetliners. The larger wingspans and seating capacities of the Douglas DC-9, Boeing 727, and other airplanes like it put more passengers into the terminal than it was designed for, and the narrow corridors, small gate areas, and inadequate concession spaces could never keep up.

The Port Authority’s long-standing plan to replace the CTB was already in motion at the time of the Vice President’s comments, but Biden’s speech brought a new sense of urgency to the project. After a lengthy competition phase, the PA chose a consortium called LaGuardia Gateway Partners to build and operate the new terminal until 2050. The LGP equity partners are Vantage, the operator of the highly-regarded airport in Vancouver, British Columbia, general contractor Skanska, and financier Meridiam.

The new CTB was designed by HOK, the architects behind Boston-Logan’s Terminal A and the main terminal at Hamad International, the new airport in Doha, Qatar. The new CTB includes a unified post-security area with far more retail and other amenities than currently exists. The apron will contain the same number of gates, but will include dual taxilanes, allowing aircraft to enter and exit the ramp area simultaneously, something that is not possible with the current CTB. The most striking feature will be two pedestrian bridges spanning the taxiway, similar to what is currently found at Denver’s Terminal A.

In order to reclaim a larger space available for aircraft and passenger movement, the current 2,700-space garage has been demolished to allow the entire new terminal complex to be constructed closer to the Grand Central Parkway. The new design contains a similar amount of parking in a garage just west of the new building.

The $4 billion project is expected to take 7 years and reach substantial completion in 2022.  The long construction timeline is driven by a complex phasing necessary maintain the same number of operating gates throughout construction. The first of the new gates are currently under construction, and phases will come online throughout the length of the project.

Project 2: Terminal C & D Replacement

While the CTB replacement is the “headline” project at the airport, Delta is intending to simultaneously replace its facility at Terminals C and D. In the midst of the bid process for the CTB replacement, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a design competition to create a future vision for LaGuardia without regard to the current infrastructure.

One of the main takeaways from the competition was the desire to build a “grand entrance” for the airport, to link the terminals, and to give the entire airport a common look and feel, as opposed to the separate complexes currently found at Terminal B and Terminals C & D, which have separate landsides, but have a post-security airside connector. The new design for C & D is intended to compliment the CTB replacement and have the same general improvements to passenger and aircraft movement. The new terminal will also add two gates, going from the current 35 to 37.

Delta and the Port Authority have reached an agreement for the PA to contribute $600 million of the overall $4 billion project. Construction is expected to begin later this year after financing is arranged and the FAA signs off on the project. Completion is expected in 2026.

Project 3: AirTrain LGA

Potential alignment for AirTrain LGA [image: NY Governor’s Office]

The final project is AirTrain LGA, announced by Governor Cuomo on January 20, 2015. This would be an automated people mover connecting the airport with the Willets Point stops on the Long Island Rail Road and the Subway’s 7 line. According to a broad description later issued by the Governor’s office, it will use vehicles similar to AirTrain JFK along an alignment that runs either along or over the Grand Central Parkway. It has also been proposed to relocate the airport’s rental car lots to a combined facility located in Willets Point.

As of today, this project is less certain than the other two. The CTB design guidelines issued to the teams that competed for the rebuilding contract mandated that space be left in the terminal for a rapid transit system’s right-of-way, though guidelines did not specify the operator, design, or concept of the transit system.

Preliminary work relating to the Willets Point Station and the modifications necessary to accommodate the new transit mode is underway, but neither full funding nor a final design have yet been identified. A contract was recently awarded for preliminary engineering, which is one step out of many required before a completed AirTrain LGA begins revenue service.

Top: Rendering of new Central Terminal Building (foregound) and new Terminal C & D Complex (background) [image: NY Governor’s Office]

[This post has been edited to clarify the LGP corporate structure and update the value of the CTB replacement project]

About the Author

Matthew Davidson
Matthew is an Editor at NYCAviation.



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