During Monday’s presidential debate, Donald Trump compared the “incredible airports” in Dubai, Qatar and China to less impressive ones in the US.
“Our airports are like from a third world country,” he said, calling out LAX and New York City’s three international airports: LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark.
It’s a point many New Yorkers might agree with — in fact, Joe Biden suggested in 2014 that if you blindfolded someone and took them to LaGuardia, they’d think, “I must be in some third-world country.”
But in March, a $4 billion redevelopment plan for the aging airport was approved by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, paving the way for construction to begin. The first part of the new airport is expected to open in 2019, with the rest scheduled to debut 18 months after that.
Take a look at the plans.
The new design will create one main unified terminal. According to LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the public-private partnership managing the project, the building will be 1.3 million square feet and contain 35 gates.
The airport is currently comprised of multiple disconnected terminals, so passengers connecting to flights have to take a shuttle bus between them. The airport has three different shuttle bus lines, so none stops at all terminals, and each only comes every 8-15 minutes.
On the western side will be a central hall for arrivals and departures, and on the eastern side will be Delta’s new terminals, which the company has agreed to redevelop as well.
Each terminal at LaGuardia currently has its own areas for arrivals and departures, which can be confusing for passengers who don’t know which terminal their airline is in, and for drivers trying to pick up friends or family after they’ve arrived.
The building will be approximately 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway, the road that runs by the airport. That move will create two miles of new taxi space, which should cut down planes’ taxi time on the runway, lower carbon emissions from idling planes, and (hopefully) reduce delays.
In 2015, FiveThirtyEight calculated that the average delay times for a round trip flight that arrives at and departs from LaGuardia is 56 minutes — the most of any airport in the US.
The gates will be located on “island concourses,” which will be attached to the main terminal by elevated pedestrian bridges. Those walkways will be high enough off the ground to allow airplanes to pass underneath, allowing them to take full advantage of the added taxi space.
The airport is also expected to have improved public transit access. An air train system will connect the terminal to a nearby subway station in Willets Point, Queens, and high-speed ferries will service the marine air terminal, which opened in 1940 and is currently used for Delta’s shuttle to Chicago. An onsite tram will also move passengers through the terminal.
The airport is currently only reachable by car or bus, making it either expensive or inconvenient for many New Yorkers to access. Construction on the new airport, which started over the summer, has been causing severe congestion in recent months. But if all goes according to plan, the redevelopment will eventually put an end to politicians’ “third-world” analogies.