By Philip Newman

The inaugural run of the $1.9-billion AirTrain which, in its final stage will rush passengers from the new Jamaica terminal to airlines throughout John F. Kennedy International Airport, is almost at hand.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says the AirTrain will begin in the fall with stops at JFK's Central Terminal area, the rental car area, long-term parking and the new Howard Beach Terminal.

Service to the Jamaica station AirTrain Terminal will start in the second quarter of 2003.

Ultimately, passengers will be able to travel from Penn Station in Manhattan to the new Jamaica terminal in 30 minutes using an express train of the Long Island Rail Road then taking AirTrain to their airline.

All 32 of the light rail cars that make up the AirTrain have been delivered to JFK and nearly half of them have been outfitted for service. Construction at the 10 passenger stations which include new terminals at Howard Beach and Jamaica are progressing on schedule.

The elevated concrete rail bed known as the Guideway is finished along with power substations. Work on five of the seven stations on the route is more than 95 percent completed.

The Port Authority is using $600 million in capital funds and $1.3 billion from the Federal Aviation Administration-authorized Passenger Facility Charge program to pay for the AirTrain.

The program permits airports throughout the country to collect a $3 fee from departing passengers for use on airport-related projects. No state or city tax revenues are used for the project.

“Less than four years ago, when we broke ground on the AirTrain-JFK project, I said we were writing a new chapter in New York history,” said Gov. George Pataki. “Today, we stand poised to fulfill that vision and revolutionize the way people travel to and from this region.”

Port Authority Chairman Jack Sinagra said his agency “has emerged from the tragedy of Sept. 11 more determined than ever to deliver on its mission” to improve the region's transportation system.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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