The Port Authority’s rebuilding of LaGuardia Airport has gotten off to a very shaky start. Closings and re-routings of the approach roads to the airport have caused delays of more than an hour for people trying to get to the terminals. Recently, we left the Financial District at 2 p.m. for a 4:35 p.m. flight. We made it only because the plane’s departure was delayed because the pilot was also stuck in traffic.
The last mile from Grand Central (and its surrounding streets) to the terminal building—less than a mile—took a full hour. We saw scores of frantic passengers abandon their taxis on the airport access roads and lug their bags across dangerous traffic and construction. Our Uber driver told us this had been the norm all week.
The overhaul of LaGuardia’s central building, known as Terminal B, is the first phase of the project, and it is budgeted at $5.3 billion. Half the new gates are expected to be operational by 2018 and the remainder some time in 2020 or beyond. The second phase, involving the outlying “C” and “D” Delta terminals, is expected to kick off next year and is budgeted at an additional $4 billion.
Scores of frantic passengers abandoned their taxis on the airport access roads and lugged their bags across dangerous traffic and construction.
Air travel is already unpleasant. Overcrowded planes, surcharges for the most basic amenities and the security hassles imposed by the always-pleasant TSA have now met their match in the planning ineptitude of the Port Authority and its contractors.
Their current solution is to tell travelers to arrive at least an additional hour earlier. Does that make it three hours? Four hours before flight time? Does it include the TSA’s own warning to leave extra time?
The Port Authority needs to act now. They should either make temporary access to the airport adequate or they should shut LaGuardia during construction. The current situation is inept and unacceptable.
The real question is: who is in charge here? Let us not forget that under Port Authority “leadership” it took more than a dozen years to build One World Trade Center at Ground Zero. Why should we expect LaGuardia to proceed any more efficiently? (Remember too that the Port Authority also has a new mega-project in the works with the replacement of the bus terminal.) So that leaves Gov. Cuomo. And by law, the governor is at least half-responsible—along with Chris Christie—for the Port Authority. This is the hard work of governing. And it is time for Cuomo to take charge. Someone has to.