Terminal 6 construction at JFK Airport on Tuesday. Port Authority...

Terminal 6 construction at JFK Airport on Tuesday. Port Authority officials warned of challenges getting to the airport. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Flyers heading to Kennedy Airport will be inconvenienced as construction ramps up during a $19 billion overhaul, the Port Authority said Tuesday. But officials outlined a plan to minimize challenges and avert a repeat of the traffic mayhem that plagued LaGuardia Airport during major reconstruction several years ago.

Construction at JFK's Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, both slated to open in 2026, will cause some roadway shifts and changes in taxi pickups, as well as AirTrain disruptions.

“This is a massive undertaking. The two new international terminals are now entering their intense phases of construction,” Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton said at a news conference. 

A 24/7 airport operations center will be staffed with traffic engineers monitoring the roadways on the 5,400-acre terminal and implementing solutions like diverting traffic or extending green traffic light signals when problem areas are spotted.

The new Terminal 1 will include construction on the former sites of Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, and will be 2.4 million square feet.

Terminal 6 will be 1.2 million square feet and connect to Terminal 5, which houses Jet Blue. Both terminals as planned will be spacious and airy, featuring popular local restaurants and public art created by New York artists.

Cotton stressed that lessons were learned from LaGuardia’s $8 billion modernization and the traffic issues that ensued.

In the summer of 2019, some passengers heading to LaGuardia were forced to ditch their rides and walk to the airport due to severe gridlock caused by ongoing construction and flight disruptions.

“We are committed to managing the construction phase using all of the lessons from LaGuardia. But we also want to communicate to the public that there will be inconvenience,” he said.

Ahead of the logistical challenges, officials asked passengers to pack their patience, along with extra time.

There will be roadway realignments to allow for Terminal 6 work. Starting Wednesday at Terminal 5, arriving passengers seeking taxi service will have to walk across the street via a footbridge to access a new taxi stand on the ground level of the yellow garage. In early summer, for-hire vehicles picking up customers from Terminal 5 will be moved to the roof of the orange garage at Terminal 7 so passengers will have to take an AirTrain to get there. There is no change for departing customers.

Officials urged passengers to use public transportation instead of driving, but noted that AirTrain service will also be disrupted.

On May 1, the AirTrain station will be closed at Terminal 1 for seven months and passengers will have to continue to Terminal 8 or Terminal 4 to grab a bus to circle back to Terminal 1. The bus at Terminal 8 will operate 24 hours ad day, and the secondary bus at Terminal 4 will run from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Bus service is expected to run every 10 minutes.

The rehab effort also means a temporary loss of 2,500 parking spaces of the 17,000 that were available preconstruction.

Some passengers seemed to be taking the news in stride.

John White, 63, from Nyack, said he looks forward to spiffy new terminals that will eventually be easier to access.

"Construction is always an inconvenience, but you know, you have to pay the price to, you know, get better," White said outside Terminal 4 Tuesday.

"We have the technology; let's use it."

Once completed, JFK is expected to serve 80 million passengers compared with the 62 million it currently accommodates, agency officials said.

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