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Cleared for Takeoff: LaGuardia’s $4B Venture

The key elements of the work are the complete rebuilding of the terminal and airport buildings and the establishment of a high-speed ferry and an AirTrain station.

Tue August 11, 2015 - Northeast Edition
Irwin Rapoport

New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, starting in 2016, will be the subject of a $4 billion demolition and rebuilding project — to be done by a private-public partnership initiative (P3). The major components of the work will take 39 months to complete, following the groundbreaking early in the new year.

The project, negotiated and put together by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was announced in late July at a press conference put together by The Association for a Better New York, which featured New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden where plans were put forward to construct a new terminal and improve access and links public transportation.

The Port Authority selected LaGuardia Gateway Partners to build the P3 last May.

“One of the reasons the LaGuardia-Gateway team was selected is because they had the most innovative staging and construction program,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. “The goal is maintain operations at their current level.”

Biden, in a speech that he delivered about infrastructure last year, was critical of the current airport and stated that it was similar to airports that can be found in third world countries.

The new terminal will allow for expanded taxiway area to ensure that airplane movements on the ground are more efficient. The key elements of the work are the complete rebuilding of the terminal and airport buildings and the establishment of a high-speed ferry and an AirTrain station that will be connected to the NYC subway system at Willets Point.

Part of the work in the first half includes a new unified terminal structure. The second half of the project, on a parallel track with the Port Authority project, will see Delta Air Lines redevelop its terminals.

According to the document put forward by the governor’s office, the new layout is designed to “reduce LaGuardia’s current plague of aircraft ground congestion and gate delays, and set [the] stage for [a] world-class passenger experience.”

Moreover, “the airport will be transformed into a single, structurally unified main terminal with expanded transportation access, significantly increased taxiway space and best-in-class passenger amenities.”

The first half of the project is expected to created 8,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs. LaGuardia currently contributes more than $16 billion in economic activity to the region annually, generating close to 121,000 total jobs and $5.9 billion in annual wages.

Approval for the start of construction is expected to be announced in early 2016, with the goal of completing most of the work by mid-2019 — opening it to passengers — and having a final delivery date 18 months later.

“The second half of the new unified terminal is expected to be redeveloped by Delta Air Lines,” states the document, “which has indicated strong support for the new vision, and anticipates beginning the redevelopment of its terminals on a parallel track with the LaGuardia Gateway Partners project to complete the new unified airport.”

Gov. Cuomo has no doubt that the construction schedules can be met.

“New York had an aggressive, can-do approach to big infrastructure in the past, and today, we’re moving forward with that attitude once again,” he said. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a globally-renowned, 21st century airport that is worthy of the city and state of New York. It’s the perfect metaphor for what we can achieve with the ambition and optimism and energy that made this the Empire State in the first place, and I want to thank our many partners for joining us to build the airport that New York deserves.”

Ensuring that the airport continues to function during the construction is a priority for all the stakeholders in the project.

The design for the new airport — a single, unified terminal, was developed by the Governor’s Airport Master Plan Advisory Panel to meet the demands of the 21st century.

The governor’s document explains the new design: “LaGuardia’s current terminal layout, comprised of multiple, fragmented terminals, will be replaced by one main, architecturally unified terminal. This will be accomplished by demolishing the existing Terminal B building, which is operated by the Port Authority, and replacing it with a larger structure, located closer to the Grand Central Parkway, which will include new terminal space and a new Central Arrivals and Departures Hall, and will link to Delta’s Terminals C and D. This represents the western half of the new structurally unified terminal.”

It also provides the basis of the second half of the work: “The eastern half of the new unified terminal will be constructed on a parallel track by Delta Air Lines redeveloping its existing Terminals closer to the Grand Central Parkway and connecting them to the new Central Arrivals and Departures Hall. Delta Air Lines is strongly supportive of this plan, and will move forward with the Panel’s recommendations in parallel with the construction schedule for the new space and Central Hall.”

A key element of the design is to “utilize LaGuardia’s geographic footprint more efficiently, with the new terminal facility placed closer to the Grand Central Parkway.

“The redesigned facility will also utilize an island-gate system,” states the document, “in which passengers access their gates via raised pedestrian bridges, high enough for aircraft to taxi underneath, which connect back to the main terminal.

“Together, the relocated terminals and island-gate system will create nearly two miles of new taxiway space. This allows for a more efficient circulation of aircraft and reduced taxi-in and taxi-out times, which will yield shorter and fewer gate delays — a dramatic difference from today’s LaGuardia. In addition, this change will produce overall reduction in carbon emissions from idling aircraft.”

LaGuardia Gateway Partners (LGP) consists of firms with extensive experience in airport terminal operations, design and finances and construction. The consortium includes: the Vantage Airport Group, which currently manages nine airports across three continents and has transitioned 19 airports from public to private management; Skanska and Walsh Construction — a construction joint venture; and HOK and Parsons Brinckerhoff — a design joint venture. The investment equity for the project is being assembled by Vantage, Skanska and Meridiam — a global infrastructure investment fund. LGP is responsible for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the new terminal as part of a 35-year lease.

The Governor’s advisory Panel made a number of other recommendations to complement the new facility, which incorporates elements from all of the top submissions to the Governor’s master plan design competition — Dattner Architects, PRESENT Architecture and SHoP Architects.

PRESENT Architecture is keen on the project.

“Governor Cuomo’s initiative to transform LaGuardia Airport into a unique and accessible transportation hub is key for the future of the New York metropolitan area,” states the firm.

SHoP Architects is just as eager: “As Governor Cuomo has made clear, right now there is a once in a lifetime opportunity to implement a comprehensive design that will make LaGuardia Airport the truly world-class experience New Yorkers and visitors deserve. [We’re] proud that our ideas for an integrated terminal could contribute to solving that urgent need at this essential gateway to the city and the state.”

The Panel also recommended, with the backing of the Port Authority, that a master planner be hired by an RFP to be put forward within 60 days by the Port Authority to “help coordinate development of the remaining recommendations, under the oversight of a new committee of the Port Authority’s board of directors.”

Via the governor’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, it was proposed to create an AirTrain option that directly connects LaGuardia to the New York City subway and Long Island Rail Road at Mets-Willets Point Station. This, as mentioned earlier, is being pursued.

The Panel also recommends that the airport once again be made accessible by ferry service is calling for “an enhanced road configuration to improve passenger access and reduce traffic on local streets in the airport’s vicinity, including the Grand Central Parkway.”

The interior design of the new unified terminal is critical, and the emphasis is that it “be intuitive for passengers to easily navigate, and will facilitate efficient movement throughout the airport. A transit option to move passengers more quickly within the airport is recommended by the Panel, such as a tram or monorail, to be included as construction moves forward. This transit option would also better integrate the Marine Air Terminal [Terminal A] with the rest of the airport housed in the new unified terminal.”

The design also calls for additional space for security a check-in which is expected to help diminish wait times for passengers as they pass through mandatory TSA screening.

“The facility — both in its individual terminals and the central hall,” according to the Governor’s document, “will also be built with significant height and openness in order to allow for a superior passenger experience, clearer signage, greater use of natural light and overall aesthetic improvements. The central hall will also be designed with space for best-in-class passenger amenities in retail, dining, and business and conference center capabilities, as well as the option to include a 200-room boutique hotel option convenient for travelers.”

It is clear that both halves of the LaGuardia project will create thousands of construction jobs via Skanska and Walsh and a host of subcontractors.

Notes the document, “The Panel has recommended that the Port Authority will ensure that the project’s employment reflects a broad spectrum of the communities in the region, and should recognize Governor Cuomo’s goal of 30 percent MWBE participation. It will also build on the Port Authority’s longstanding commitment to supporting Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (ADCBE).”

LaGuardia was impacted by Hurricane Sandy when nearly 100 million gallons of saltwater flooded the airport and shut it down for two days — this impacted 250,000 passengers and caused an economic loss to the region of nearly $108 million.

“With this in mind, “ states the document, “the Panel recommends elevating critical infrastructure in order to keep the airport operational during a flood event and better prepare the airport for similar extreme weather events.”

The LaGuardia redesign project is cognizant of the impact of the airport on neighboring communities in terms of the “significant” automobile traffic on local roads and the Grand Central Parkway from passengers who are either parking outside of the airport or from those waiting to pick up passengers from the airport as they arrive.

“Under the new design plan,” states the document, “the Panel recommends increasing parking options on site and identifying a location for a cell phone waiting area in order to reduce congestion on local streets. Additionally, the Panel also recommends a new rental car facility be created to concentrate the ten car rental companies that currently serve LaGuardia from multiple dispersed locations, further reducing congestion.”

LaGaurdia Not the Only Airport to Be Modernized

While a major focus is being placed on the $4 billion demolition and rebuilding of New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, development also is being planned to “revolutionize and modernize” nearby airports — JFK, Republic and Stewart.

JFK is one of the few international airports without an on-airport hotel, according to a document put forward by New York Gov. Mario Cuomo on LaGuardia, who announced, “ the construction of a new state-of-the-art hotel at JFK International Airport in the historic TWA Flight Center, which was designed by world-renowned architect Eero Saarinen.”

The new LEED certified hotel will include 505 guestrooms, 40,000 sq. ft. (3,716 sq m) of conference, event and meeting space, and a 10,000-sq.-ft. (929 sq m) observation deck.

The redevelopment of JFK’s TWA Flight Center Hotel is being undertaken by a public-private partnership between MCR Development, JetBlue and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

According to the documents, “the $265 million construction project, which is expected to break ground next year, will generate 3,700 jobs, and is expected to open in 2018.”

The Governor also announced plans to develop a full master plan for future development at JFK airport and he has called on the Advisory Panel to report back in the next 12 months with recommendations for an implementable master plan for the development of a 21st century JFK.

Within the next 60 days the Panel will work with the Port Authority to issue an RFP to retain a master planning firm to advise the Governor, the panel and the Port Authority on the future development of the airport, according to the documents.

Empire State Development also issued new RFIs with a primary focus on enhancing the regional economic activity at both Republic Airport (East Farmingdale, Long Island) and Stewart International Airport (Newburgh, Orange County).

“Specific sites have been identified for future development, and ESD will guide the development of these sites via a new real estate broker — Newmark Knight Grubb Frank,” states the document.

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