Someday, when Governor Andrew Cuomo's vision for a modern LaGuardia Airport is finally realized, and his AirTrain is zipping passengers from Willets Point to their terminals, we'll look back on these days of nightmare LaGuardia gridlock with sheepish nostalgia. But until then Governor Cuomo says there's nothing to be done about traffic that is so bad, children are forced to walk on the highway to catch their flights.
— Stefan Matheke (@stefanamf) August 9, 2019
"No, look, what's happening at LaGuardia is in some ways unavoidable," Cuomo told WNYC's Sean Carlson during an interview for All Things Considered on Friday afternoon. Carlson had asked the governor if the LaGuardia traffic situation warranted his attention the same way the L train shutdown did.
"Did you not see this coming? Was it unexpected? Was there more we can do?" Carlson asked.
"LaGuardia is one of the smallest airports in the country, it's tiny," Cuomo replied. "So the challenge is to operate an airport, rebuild the airport at the same time, and then manage the traffic on the highest volume days."
The governor continued, "We have had a couple of instances, yesterday was one of them, where the traffic did back up. Now, people get out of the car. What happens is when they are in sight of the terminal and traffic is slow they get out of the cab and walk the remainder of the distance. Which is not advisable, but it's not, it doesn't totally violate what is expedient at the time either."
(There are 45 days this summer alone that the Port Authority has declared "peak travel days.")
What’s going on at Laguardia 🤦🏽♂️🤦🏽♂️⁉️ little kids walking to the terminals from the DEEP in the highway ...... pic.twitter.com/qP2YOlPmfz
— ColbyC🙇🏽 (@DCarrington01) August 8, 2019
The governor insisted that "we are accelerating construction," but that "there are certain practical realities."
"You need to operate an airport. You need to build a new airport. You need to do it on a tiny plot of land in a very high volume environment. And traffic on high volume days is an almost unavoidable inconvenience," Cuomo said.
There is, however, some good news. It'll just take a few years to get here.
"The good news is the whole project will be about two years, and then New Yorkers are going to have the first new airport in 25 years in the United States of America."
The LaGuardia airport overhaul was Cuomo's baby before the L train shutdown reversal was a glimmer in his eye. The governor announced his plan in 2015. This past June, the executive director of Port Authority referred to the renovations as "Governor Cuomo's vision."
Hear about our plans for LGA Airport, including improved transportation access and construction of an AirTrain. http://t.co/6HaiNn0vKz
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 20, 2015
Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance said there's no reason that vision can't include giving buses priority when entering and exiting LaGuardia.
"Public transit is the most affordable option to reach the airport. With better publicity and coordination, it can be a highly efficient option too," Pearlstein said. "Buses can do a lot to address these atrocious, even dangerous traffic jams. A state that can build a new airport can make its bureaucrats talk to each other to prioritize buses in a construction zone."
You can listen to the full interview with the governor here.