Friday, January 28, 2011

An Unaffordable But Necessary Plan To Deal With NYC Metro Area Airport Congestion

The Port Authority commissioned a study to figure out how to reduce the massive airport congestion that the region currently experiences and is only expected to get worse in the coming decade.

The problem is one of cost. Massive costs.

The proposed solutions might be $15 billion or more in order to build new runways at JFK and Newark Liberty airports. Newark Liberty would require a massive reconstruction effort to demolish existing terminals and realign runways to permit the construction of a third runway along its north/south axis next to the existing two runways.

LaGuardia Airport would not get any additional runways since there is no room on its grounds.
So the study’s authors at the Manhattan-based Regional Plan Association are recommending $15 billion in overhauls at the three major airports, including construction of a third, longer runway at Newark to allow for more takeoffs and landings and, ultimately, to significantly reduce delays.

To make way for the new runway, however, all of Terminal B and portions of Terminals A and C would have to be demolished and rebuilt in some other configuration, according to the study commissioned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the three airports.

In addition to Newark, the report recommends a fifth runway be added at JFK. LaGuardia, which like Newark is plagued by poor on-time performance, has no room to expand, the report says.

Failing to overhaul the airports will stunt the region’s growth, resulting in the loss of business and job opportunities and forcing traveling public to seek other airports or other means of transportation, the study said.

"What’s at stake is 130,000 jobs, $16 billion in sales," said Jeffrey Zupan, a senior fellow at the plan association and co-author of the report. "If we don’t do the expansion, we’re leaving millions of people unserved. We’ve got to get started now,"

The report recommends redevelopment because there is no other location within 40 miles of Manhattan in which to build a new, major airport.

"The good thing about the Newark option is that you can do it totally within the Newark footprint," Zupan said.

The report does not say how long it would take to complete such a massive undertaking, and it’s not even certain whether a project with such a huge price tag would be approved by the governors of New Jersey and New York.

The airport proposal was unveiled as the Port Authority continues to experience recession-related revenue declines even as it confronts costly projects like redeveloping of the World Trade Center site, raising the Bayonne Bridge roadbed and replacing the Goethals Bridge.
The proposal notes that there are no locations within 40 miles of Manhattan that could support the construction of a new airport to relieve congestion at the existing airports. Newburgh's Stewart International Airport is 61 miles from Manhattan and that presents the most viable alternative only if high speed rail connections are established to speed access to the region's core. Alternatively, one might want to take a closer look at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains that has room to grow into neighboring Connecticut. At present, there are several golf courses adjacent to the airport that could make way for a significant expansion of the airport. I'm sure that the local community wouldn't appreciate the additional noise and congestion that the airport expansion might bring, but it might be a whole lot less costly than the rebuilding of Newark Liberty airport.

The JFK airport expansion could be done with less interruption and disruption of flight operations, particularly if the Port Authority decides to build a new runway adjacent to existing 13L/31R that could be built on landfill reclaimed from Jamaica Bay. Additional runways could be built on the other side of JFK airport adjacent to Rockaway Parkway, but that would require a realignment of that road and relocating the cargo operations of multiple carriers.

Newark Liberty would require a significant reconstruction of all of its airport operations to build a new runway parallel to its existing two main runways.

Further, the study notes that Newark's AirTrain is outmoded and should be replaced at some point in the future. The AirTrain has been a failure because it doesn't connect the terminals with the parking facilities, including long term parking and inhibits better utilization of facilities the way that the JFK AirTrain does. Instead, the proposal suggests expanding PATH to the airport, but that's just not a cost efficient alternative.

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