By David Brand
With a years-long, $10 billion overhaul almost underway at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey now requests input from local communities.
The Port Authority will host an information session on a project that could facilitate huge infrastructure changes to the area at Challenge Charter Middle School in Far Rockaway tonight at 7 pm. The Port Authority will hold a second meeting at Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center in St. Albans tomorrow at 7 pm.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo first announced the massive redevelopment plan during an ambitious speech in January 2017.
“New York never backs down from a challenge, rather we step up to take on the ambitious projects that are often thought to be impossible. That’s exactly what transforming JFK International Airport is all about,” Cuomo said.. “Our vision plan calls for the creation of a unified, interconnected airport that changes the passenger experience and makes the airport much easier to access and navigate.”
The renovation will address three core issues, according to the state’s vision plan: connecting all the airport’s terminals, improving car access to the airport and easing rail access to keep up with projected passenger growth.
In 2016, JFK served 60 million passengers, the architecture website 6sqft reported. The number of travelers is expected to increase to 75 million by 2030 and 100 million passengers by 2050.
Today, travelers who arrive at JFK by taxi may wait a half-hour in gridlock just outside the departures gates. According to the state, overall travel times to the airport are “unpredictable and range anywhere from 35 minutes to two hours.”
To improve travel, Cuomo directed the state Department of Transportation to begin a $2 billion project that would eliminate bottlenecks at the Kew Gardens Interchange and the Van Wyck Expressway. The state estimates that the enhanced traffic flow will improve air quality in the surrounding communities, cut emissions by 30 percent and reduce fuel consumptions by 10.8 million gallons. Wider roadways will discourage drivers from following GPS device directions through residential streets in Ozone Park, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and other nearby neighborhoods.
The plan includes two options for improving rail access to the airport. The first includes adding more cars to AirTran trains and improving “the ease of connection” between the subway and Long Island Railroad, which connect with the AirTrain.
The second option involves exploring “the feasibility of one-seat ride to JFK.”
Critics say that the lack of reliable and efficient public transportation is the biggest problem affecting the airport and one of the main reasons why it was ranked just 69th in the Skytrax World Airport Awards. LaGuardia Airport, which former Vice President Joe Biden once compared to an airport in a “Third-World Country,” was not ranked in the top 100.
The online magazine Quartz pointed out that travelers must take at least two trains or a bus and a train — including the $5 AirTran — to get to JFK.
“Reaching Manhattan the quickest often involves a bleary eyed traveler having to pay a $5 fee to exit the airport (for using the AirTrain), buy a ticket using antiquated machines that require everyone to enter a zip code when using a credit card, get on a train at Jamaica station in Queens to take the Long Island Rail Road (a totally different train system that requires a separate ticket), and then arrive at the maze that is Penn station (which Cuomo is also overhauling and has previously compared to “dark” and “dingy” catacombs) with no guidance as to how the city’s subway system works,” Quartz wrote.
Thus, many travelers throw in the towel and hail a taxi, which costs more than $50 to get to Manhattan.