By Betsy Scheinbart

The AirTrain project is progressing on schedule with few complaints from southeast Queens residents, said the district manager of the community board affected by rail construction and authorities from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The $1.9 billion project was designed to connect John F. Kennedy International Airport with the A train at Howard Beach by the end of next year, and the Long Island Rail Road and E, J, and Z subway lines at Jamaica by the middle of 2003, the Port Authority said.

The guideway rails within the airport, which will provide a free ride from one airport terminal to another, are complete and will start service next year, said Tony Cracchiolo, director of priority capital programs for the Port Authority.

The fare for rides from Jamaica and Howard Beach have yet to be determined.

The project sparked criticism for not being a one-seat ride to the airport, and southeast Queens residents were concerned about the construction of the elevated rail tracks. But Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12, said she had not received any complaints about AirTrain construction.

“We just thought the phone would be ringing off the hook,” Reddick said of the anticipated complaints.

Board 12 covers the areas of Jamaica, South Jamaica and Rochdale Village where AirTrain rails are under construction along the Van Wyck Expressway.

Pillars supporting the AirTrain rails already stand in the middle of the expressway from the airport to the Jamaica LIRR station, where the Port Authority is constructing an AirTrain station.

About a third of the guideways connecting Jamaica to the airport have been completed, Cracchiolo said.

“We are still working our way up the Van Wyck and we are about to pass Foch Boulevard,” Cracchiolo said.

Rail construction will close each overpass on the Van Wyck for about one week and Foch Boulevard is currently closed, Reddick said.

Construction of the Jamaica station is to start in two weeks, and preparations have begun in the Johnson Yard off 94th Avenue, near the LIRR station, Cracchiolo said.

Meanwhile, two AirTrain cars are undergoing testing at a maintenance facility at JFK. Cracchiolo said the cars are similar in size to Metropolitan Transit Authority subway cars. They are about 10 feet wide and 57 feet, nine inches long, slightly shorter than subway cars. They will not have motormen.

Although similar in size to a subway car, the AirTrain cars should be more comfortable, with cushioned seating, luggage racks, and carpeted floors. The doors are six feet wide for easy luggage transport, Cracchiolo said.

The cars could fit 200 people if they were packed, but Cracchiolo said the PA is aiming to fit about 80 to 90 people with plenty of space for luggage.

“We are looking to provide quality, first-class service that would easily accommodate travelers,” Cracchiolo said. “We are not a transit service.”

The trains will eventually run with four cars but will probably start off with two, Cracchiolo said.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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