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LaGuardia AirTrain gets key approval from FAA

A rendering of the proposed LaGuardia AirTrain system.

A rendering of the proposed LaGuardia AirTrain system. Credit: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The federal government has approved the creation of a new $2 billion AirTrain linking LaGuardia Airport to the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington line.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday issued its "record of decision" approving the Port Authority’s environmental review of the project, which aims to connect the Northern Queens airport to the LIRR’s Willets Point station via a 1.5-mile-long rail system.

The FAA, in its decision, said it found the proposal to be "reasonable, feasible, practical and prudent."

The AirTrain was a key ingredient of the Port Authority’s ongoing $8 billion redevelopment of LaGuardia, which has long been scorned by travelers for being difficult to access by public transportation.

But the AirTrain has also drawn significant opposition, including from Queens environmentalists and transportation planners who have said its route is far from ideal. Those headed to most Long Island stations would have to go east to return west to Woodside, and then double back eastward. Critics have also questioned whether the LIRR’s Port Washington line is equipped to handle a surge in new riders.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday called the FAA’s approval "a key moment in our efforts to rebuild New York's infrastructure for the future."

"As we come out of the COVID crisis, our state and our country have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in a resilient, transformative, and interconnected future, and today's announcement is a testament to our 'all aboard' commitment to seizing it," Cuomo said.

The FAA has said the project should be completed by the end of 2025. Coinciding with the new rail link, the MTA has promised major upgrades to its facilities at Mets Willets Point, including new elevators to the LIRR and improvements to the No. 7 train subway station there.

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