La Guardia Airport’s $8 Billion Overhaul Making Major Headway

LaGuardia from the sky, taken July 12th, image by Andrew Campbell NelsonLaGuardia from the sky, taken July 12th, image by Andrew Campbell Nelson

Things are looking up for North America’s worst airport. Construction is moving along at the LaGuardia Airport renovation and expansion in East Elmhurst, Queens. The $8 billion overhaul of the transport hub hopes to alleviate the airport of its notorious struggle with constant delays and cancellations, a source of national embarrassment and numerous dubious honors, like being ranked the 14th worst airport in the world. LaGuardia Gateway Partners (LGP) is behind the project.

LaGuardia Airport

Redeveloped LaGuardia Airport. Rendering via Curbed NY

The main piece of progress is the new main terminal, set to replace Terminal B by 2020. It will add 1.3 million square feet and create 35 gates. Once complete, the second phase of construction will connect it with Terminals C and D with a nearly mile-long hallway.

Closeup of construction progress in LaGuardia from the sky, taken July 12th, image by Andrew Campbell Nelson

Closeup of construction progress in LaGuardia from the sky, taken July 12th, image by Andrew Campbell Nelson

Concourse B is moving toward the last phase of construction and is expected to open soon, but the elevated walkway will not be finished until 2020. The majority of the façade has already been installed, and interior construction already started earlier this year.

Terminal B mainhouse of LGA redevelopment with facade installation beginning

Terminal B main house of LGA redevelopment with facade installation beginning

The new design maximizes the airport’s space by way of building 600 feet closer to the highway, and including elevated walkways. In total, nearly two miles of taxiways for airplanes will be added to the existing site. This will allow for more fluid traffic on the runways and minimize delays.

Map of construction phases and estimated completion dates for LaGuardia Terminal B, image by Mike Arnot

Map of construction phases and estimated completion dates for LaGuardia Terminal B, image by Mike Arnot

AirTrain LaGuardia is expected to open by 2022, and will finally connect the airport with the subway system, stopping at the Mets-Willets Point station, serviced by the 7 trains. That means it won’t be long until people working by Grand Central and Hudson Yards can take the subway directly to the LGA AirTrain.

The development has been heavily criticized for not going far enough to connect the airport with the city, but Cuomo shows no sign of relenting, with $75 million already dedicated to the project.

Terminal B mainhouse of LGA redevelopment with facade installation and Airtrain supports both going up

Terminal B main house of LGA redevelopment with facade installation and Air Train supports both going up

Construction on the terminal B parking garage has already been finished and it is currently operating.

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35 Comments on "La Guardia Airport’s $8 Billion Overhaul Making Major Headway"

  1. Taking a subway way past your destination to have to transfer to another train is not “directly”. Subways to airports are generally a boondoggle and don’t see the volume that you’d expect considering the cost. This will be even worse. We’re way overspending for needless, unhelpful, low ridership,expensive projects (hello ferries and east side access!) while letting the core of transit system rot. But hey, Cuomo and DeBlasio love shiny photo-ops. so here we are.

    • If the N were extended to Laguardia, it would come with stops along the way. It’s the better option.

      • From your mouth to God’s ears. It would also be far less disruptive to residents since, in theory, it would go down 31st Street to 20th Avenue and head up to LGA that way and that area is far less populated than other parts of Astoria. It was Guiliani’s dream project and it made perfect sense.

  2. Please pardon me for using your space: Wages of work in progress during under construction. I bet its worst will be zero. (Thanks to Andrew Nelson)

  3. Joseph Vallone A.I.A | July 19, 2018 at 9:29 am | Reply

    Who doesn’t like shiny new buildings? I love them, I’m an architect but…. the real problem with the airport is runway bandwidth. New buildings are not going allow more planes to land and take off promptly, they need additional runways. I use this airport regularly and there are times when there are 15-20 planes in a line waiting to take off. I don’t understand why they do not construct an additional runway, parallel to runway #31. If they need to fill in 200′ of the bay to construct it, so be it.

    • StatenIsland1967 | July 19, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Reply

      Here’s a better way: If this country had a real, high-speed intercity rail system, the train ride to DC and Boston would be basically faster and easier than going to an airport. That would eliminate a decent number of the shuttle flights between LGA and those cities, not to mention other short-haul flights- leaving more takeoff and landing slots for longer duration flights. (For instance, it now takes ELEVEN hours to go from NYC to Montreal via Amtrak. Berlin to Munich is a similar distance and takes just under four hours.)

  4. The airtrain is the dumbest shit ever.

  5. Elto Desukane | July 19, 2018 at 10:06 am | Reply

    I often need to transfer flight between La Guardia and JFK.
    There should be a quick easy simple way for a passenger like me to do this.

  6. One seat ride is the preferable way. Transferring, especially with luggage, is not preferable. Nonetheless, it is very exciting that we get a new airport!

  7. This is no more than lipstick on a pig. Close Rikers, landfill the space in between, extend the runways. Rethink NYC has an incredible plan for LGA.

  8. I don’t see Terminal C on any photos above. That seems to be the terminal I use the most (Delta). It’s the worst terminal in the world. No signage, NO SEATS ANYWHERE at baggage claim/ground transportation and always total confusion on the part of arriving passengers. I don’t understand why there can’t be one single terminal with gates spread out fan-like all around. That’s what most airports do. I hate LGA!

  9. StatenIsland1967 | July 19, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Reply

    Living 20 minutes from Newark, I have never used LGA, and only used JFK once. Regardless, the AirTrain bit is just dumb. They could have extended the N/W subway to the airport.

  10. Howard Miller | July 20, 2018 at 8:33 am | Reply

    What a shame $2 billion is being wasted on a useless toy train to Flushing Meadows Park/Citifield that relies on the exceptionally limited off-peak schedule of the Port Washington LIRR train line to Willets Point, or the slow, lumbering local 7 train in one direction at all times plus an additional $5 fare instead of using that $2 billion to build a one-seat/one-fare ride to/from Manhattan via either an extension of the N line (that could avoid NIMBY bs by also being routed over the highway if by subway, or by using existing rail rights of way used by AMTRAK and/or freight trains (and special Metro-North trains during the NFL football season that run through Penn Station to bring fans to/from Met Stadium) to build a direct LIRR spur adjacent to the BQE Expressway that better ties in with all of its much busier lines that operate with subway like frequency.

    That stupid, ill-advised, vanity pet project by our governor is the biggest waste of scarce resources imaginable. We would all be wise to do everything possible to stop it dead in its tracks – the sooner the better…

    …and certainly before it becomes a $2 billlion+ runaway train (to nowhere)!!!

  11. Please pardon me for using the space: Taxiways won’t alleviate the traffic. They really need a new runway. But since that’ll never happen, they should ban commuter jets from LGA. Make the airlines fly larger capacity mainliners instead of small capacity regional jets.

    • To do that you need longer runways. LGA has some of the shortest runways in the country used for commercial flights. You need more and longer runways to make any real impact.

  12. The proposed airtrain is the stupidest idea going. The lack of a REAL subway connection is pathetic. I take the airtrain at JFK nearly weekly and the one at EWR once in awhile and they both suck (EWR much worse tho). The fact that numerous airports in the US and abroad have subways that go to the airport (Chicago, DC, London) just underscores how ridiculous this idea is.

  13. Regarding Joseph Vallone’s comment: In the case of LGA, the major constraint on aircraft operations was not runway capacity but taxiway capacity. By moving the landside terminal closer to the LI Expressway, space is opened up between landside and airside terminals for aircraft movement. This is the brilliance of this outside-the-box-thinking design.

    • I don’t know what story you are reading, but LaGuardia does not run adjacent to the LIE. The Grand Central Parkway yes, the LIE, no.

  14. This renovation is long overdue and will help make the experience a bit more pleasant for passengers and employees alike. However I must also agree with Joseph Vallone’s comment that the airport needs more runways. Only caveat is that I don’t believe filling in the bay is economically or environmentally sound. Additional emphasis should be placed on reliever airports like Newburgh, Westchester and Islip to relieve congestion for domestic flights.

    Another option is to have the political will to invest in high speed trains throughout the country to reduce the need for flights of 300 miles or less. You should not need to take a flight from NY to Boston, Philadelphia, or Washington DC.

  15. Howard Miller | July 20, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Reply

    @Joeseph Vallone, A.I.A.

    My professional background includes five years (1999-2004) of published, bylined columns & data analysis for a newsletter that covers the airline industry for the financial community, senior management at airlines and the leading aerospace OEMs (e.g., Boeing, Airbus, etc.), airport managers, and government regulators, among others.

    And fwiw, I also have an extensive education at the undergraduate and graduate level for urban politics and planning, development, etc.

    I agree, and as noted above separately regarding the utterly preposterous AirTrain link our current governor is cramming down our throats, vast resources are being wasted at this once-in-a-lifetime (or our lifetimes, that is) opportunity to redevelop and moderninze LaGuardia Airport from its current dilapidated “Third World” state where not just the Central Terminal Building is obsolete owing to its vintage 1960s build date, but also the runways, which as you note, clearly cannot handle the demands of today when using designs and configurations that predate even the jet age.

    However, short of closing Rikers Island and adopting the visionary, if radical, “Rethink NYC” plan @Rnsone mentions in reader comments above, the type of expansion of capacity you suggest by constructing an additional parallel runway at a separation of 200’ from runway 31 is impossible per minimum separations for safety summarized below.

    However, what desperately needs to be done, that alas, is NOT being done however desperate the need truly is (as per many industry experts, but perhaps best expressed by Captain “Sully” Sullenberger of “Miracle on the Hudson” fame) to EXTEND THE CURRENT RUNWAYS BEYOND THEIR CURRENT WOEFULLY SHORT LENGTHS for overruns and safer operations that the arrestor beds are a poor substitute for.

    For sure, that SHOULD’VE been done…but because most people are less familiar with airside needs and can be bamboozeled by strong willed politicians hellbent on using taxpayer money to build useless vanity projects such as the AirTrain where they can cut ribbons at photo ops, but then be long gone from power when the bills come due to subsidize the white elephant that never should’ve been built in the first place (something virtually EVERY TRANSPORTATION expert not on Cuomo’s or the contractors’ payroll, that is, who will profit from the construction of this obscenely ridiculous fleecing of public funds) instead of demanding a better allocation of resources to bring LaGuardia’s pre jet age runways up to date.

    Oh, well, such is life these days…

    ..lIn the meantime, below is a quick summary of what would be needed to allow for construction of additional runways at LaGuardia Airport…

    Cheers!

    In the United States, the FAA has published Advisory Circular 150/5300-13A, Airport Design , which includes standards and recommendations for airport design, including parallel runway separation.

    In summary,

    “For simultaneous landings and takeoffs using VFR, the minimum separation between centerlines of parallel runways is 700 feet (213 m).”
    For simultaneous IFR operations, “Dual simultaneous precision instrument approaches are normally approved on parallel runway centerline separation of 4,300 feet (1311 m). On a case-by-case basis, the FAA will consider proposals utilizing separations down to a minimum of 3,000 feet (914 m) where a 4,300 foot (1311 m) separation is impractical. This reduction of separation requires special high update radar, monitoring equipment, etc.” Note: Simultaneous Offset Instrument Approaches allow as little as 750 ft between runway centerlines.
    International regulations do differ. ICAO have their own standards. Here is an example of a document which prescribes airport standards compliant to ICAO Annex 14.

  16. Howard Miller | July 20, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Reply

    Addendum:

    VFR = Visual Flight Rules (as in daylight and mostly clear skies)

    IFR = Instrument Flight Rules (as in nighttime and inclement weather where visibility is limited)

  17. Ernest Windschauer | July 20, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Reply

    Extend the Astoria subway line to LaGuardia. That would be much more direct from Midtown.

  18. AttentionAllPassengers | July 20, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Reply

    Headhouse ?…..sounds like a huge latrine – can’t you just say “MAIN TERMINAL” ????
    What was touted as a $4 billion dollar project is now $7 billion……what does that mean, that by 2020 it will $20 billion ?……what a bottomless PIT – the operative word still being “pit”.

  19. Howard Miller | July 20, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Reply

    “Headhouse” is the term used in the airline industry for that section of the passenger terminal. Not sure where that particular “term of art” originated, but regardless of its etymology, that is the correct term used by industry professionals.

    Of course, if “latrine” conjures up unsavory thoughts, there may yet be far more “pleasant and satisfying” word associations to get “excited” about with the word “headhouse” if you can’t get “huge latrine” out of mind… hehehe!

  20. Can’t believe we have an opportunity to have a direct subway line to LaGuardia and Gov. Cuomo is caving in to a handful of selfish NIMBYs that don’t want the N train extended. Instead he proposes to connect an airtrain to the overcrowded 7 line. Has Cuomo ever taken a ride on the 7? I have and I’ve often had to allow one or two trains to pass because I have not been able to fit in. The narrow, already overburdened 7 train will not be able to accommodate additional passengers with luggage! This is absolute lunacy! Do the right thing, extend the N!

  21. AttentionAllPassengers | July 20, 2018 at 9:30 pm | Reply

    @Howard Miller,
    I’ve been the airline industry over 37 years and I’ve never heard the term head house. Doesn’t sound “professional” at all.

  22. The airfield needs to be expanded as some have mentioned earlier. They need to close Rikers and fill in land to join the island to the airfield and extend the runways.

    America use to be at the forefront of infrastructure development. Not anymore. Most major world cities have direct connections from their transit to the airports. The Airtrain is going to be a waste of time, but it will sure nickel and dime the public who needs to get to the airport.

  23. I have always flown in to Laguardia when I come to town. My biggest issue is no subway stop. I realize they’re pricey, but an air train isn’t? Plus a subway stop flawlessly connects to the others. An air train seems like it should be heading to JFK, not to a subway stop. A number of busses already do that.

  24. Lower Manhattan Resident | July 21, 2018 at 11:23 am | Reply

    I often fly out on very early morning flights or first flights of the day, and the taxi or Uber to LGA is 20 mins from Lower Manhattan, and only about $35.00. Also, I often use the Delta terminal at LGA, I always can find seating, plenty of places to relax, and the security line is fast with pre TSA. So many whiners and complainers here. While this airport needed a major overhaul, its not that bad. I am from Atlanta, their airport is great, Marta subway into and out of the airport with one seat, and so much more relaxing and simple. Too much attitude here in this city, with personal and public government agendas, you can’t believe anyone politicians here!!

    • Agreed. I don’t know what all these whiners are complaining about. I use Delta terminals regularly and they do a good job overall.
      As for getting to and from Manhattan, even a one seat subway solution is probably not economic (which Cuomo is probably never going to allow) — so let taxis and car services do what they always do — get people to Manhattan — and drop the absurd “airtrain”.

  25. Phil MaCrackin | July 27, 2018 at 10:27 pm | Reply

    It’s great that they are upgrading the airport, it is much needed and long overdue, but to only make an Airtrain connection to the 7 line is just plain stupid. Besides coming from the 7 train it should also be connected to the N/W trains at the Astoria Blvd station. That way you have it connecting to three lines not just one that for a lot of people is out of the way and makes no sense. Connecting to the Astoria Blvd stop would be easy and the Airtrain could run elevated down the center divider of the GCP, just like it does on the Van Wyck. Even the JFK Airtrain connects two different ways, in Jamaica and to the rockaway line station as well. This one line plan sucks.

  26. Richard Leahman | August 8, 2018 at 9:44 pm | Reply

    Enjoyed the comments of the Airport expansion in your area, some similar feelings I suspect are here in Salt lake as well !!

  27. This overhaul is greatly needed. Otherwise, just shut it down! The airport is ancient and offers poor service and capability. I believe BOTH AirTrain AND high speed rail on the NE corridor are needed as we move forward in the future. I look forward to a modern airport but that should not stop high speed rail development!

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