The head of the Port Authority on Thursday questioned whether LaGuardia Airport will face traffic chaos next year when renovation work begins on a second terminal.
“Are we going to create a traffic Armageddon?” chairman John Degnan asked the agency officials handling the project during a Port Authority Board meeting.
Those project officials, Richard J. Smyth and Lysa Scully, assured Degnan and other board members that the worst of the traffic jams, having occurred over the summer, were over.
They said several steps, including increased video monitoring of traffic patterns, have allowed police and staff to spot trouble areas and take corrective action.
Traffic on airports has been congested sporadically since construction began in early July on a new $4 billion central terminal serving about eight airlines. Works begins early next year on a new Delta terminal just east of the main terminal, and construction on both should be taking place on both for a couple of years.
The worst traffic usually occurred on Mondays, a big travel day, agency officials have said. And Aug. 22 appeared to have been bad even for a Monday, when stormy weather in the Northeast forced scores of flight cancellations, the officials said.
Two days later, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration — itself plagued by long lines at its security checkpoints earlier this year — advised travelers to arrive at LaGuardia 2 to 2 1/2 hours before their scheduled departure time because of delays in parking, obtaining a boarding pass and getting to the gate.
Port Authority officials had urged travelers to use mass transit during the construction period, but the only mass transit to the airport is city buses, and those have been delayed on airport access roads clogged with other vehicles.
On several days in July and August, NYC Bus issued alerts to its riders that its buses were “running with delays due to traffic conditions at LaGuardia Airport. Allow additional time.”
Demolition began on the main parking garage in early July, eliminating 2,250 spaces, the Port Authority said. Other lots were expected to handle some of that load, but there will be 2,000 fewer parking spaces, down from 6,400 spaces in January, until the new garage opens in early 2018.
The Port Authority board took votes on two measures Thursday that could have raised wages for workers employed by contractors at the region’s three major airports, but neither measure got enough votes to pass.
After the first vote, about 50 workers attending the meeting marched to the front of the room shouting “Shame on You,” but Port Authority police quickly put themselves between protesters and board members. The workers chanted for about two minutes before leaving the meeting room.
At about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, some five hours after the board meeting ended, the Port Authority sent out an alert saying that “due to high to volume at LGA (LaGuardia) there is heavy traffic on all airport roadways. Please allow extra time when traveling to the airport.”