The LaGuardia Express may require more time if NEPA attaches

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It doesn’t take a Vice President to know that LaGuardia Airport is a 3rd World facility and needs a major revision. Recently Vice President Biden and Governor Cuomo jointly announced the comprehensive redesign of LaGuardia Airport. The goal is to start this project by 2016 and to spend $4 billion to recreate the currently disjointed set of buildings into a single, integrated terminal within five years.

While having help from the White House helps, the goal of having all of the federal approvals, necessary for starting construction by next year, may be ambitious. 

The project basically will tear down all of the existing complex of airline ticket counters, service areas, gates, etc. and replace them in the new structure. That’s a major task, but as immense as that assignment may be, there’s more.

Among that list of proposed construction work several will require FAA approval including the LGA Airport Layout Plan and the Airport Master Plan. Such projects which may be subject to further review include:

  • The plan intends to create a new set of taxiways, which includes “roads” underneath the new bridges on which passengers would walk to the gates.lga33
  • The new waiting areas will protrude toward the major runway.
  • The network of existing taxiways will likely be changed.
  • The new terminal buildings, which may be higher, might have to be assessed for their potential for obstruction. New “go around” procedures may need to be defined.
  • The old car/bus/taxi roads were eligible for AIP funding. Their destruction and replacement may require approval.lga66
  • The existing huge parking garage, a source of revenue for LGA, will be demolished/reduced. That loss of revenue may have an impact on the airport’s finances.
  • If the project will request FAA AIP grants, the funding is subject to a set of priorities.

The Governor was quoted as saying:

“It is actually happening,” said Cuomo. “LaGuardia Airport is un-New York.”

He said that approvals that would normally take years were expedited by the vice president’s office.

It is not clear from the information released whether the FAA’s approval of the LGA Revision was part of Vice President Biden’s federal package. The appearance of the #2 position in the Executive Branch being affirmatively involved in the LGA project’s review, may qualify as “prejudgment or predetermination” in National Environmental Protection Act terms. That’s relevant because ALP and AMP approvals may be construed as a significant federal action and thus fall within NEPA. If someone with standing raises NEPA and if the FAA has not addressed either this federal action or lack of any FAA review under NEPA, starting this project next year will not be likely.

These are points which almost all airport executives are aware and it is likely that the PANYNJ professional staff would pose these concerns. If the Vice President was able to effectively avoid these legal steps, then the spades will dig the ground by the end of 2016. If these boxes on the FAA forms have not been checked, considerable time may be required to complete all of the procedures.

The plan sounds very encouraging for NYC and all travelers. Otherwise there is an apt aphorism in regulatory processing:

“If you want it badly, you’ll likely get it badly.”

Hopefully someone is making sure that all the “T’s” are being crossed and the “I’s” dotted and the new LGA will be ready in five years.


ARTICLE: La Guardia Airport to Be Overhauled by 2021, Cuomo and Biden Say

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