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Photo by Bill Parry
Traffic returns to normal on the 94th Street Bridge approach to LaGuardia Airport following a gridlock debacle Aug. 22.
By Bill Parry

The leader of the consortium in charge of the $4 billion Central Terminal redevelopment at LaGuardia Airport says weather played a major role in creating a gridlock fiasco that forced travelers to leave taxis and livery cars and make a mad dash to through traffic in order to make their flights on Monday, Aug. 22. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office called the delays unacceptable and directed the LaGuardia Gateway Partners and the Port Authority to come up with a plan to “minimize undue and unsafe impacts on travelers.”

Stewart Steeves, the CEO of LaGuardia Gateway Partners, blamed weather issues for creating unusually heavy volume at the airport that day. Over 100,000 air travelers use LaGuardia on a busy day.

“On Sunday night, Aug. 21, storms across the Midwest and Northeast regions forced the cancellation of almost 100 flights out of LaGuardia Airport and as a result, normally scheduled flights for Monday, Aug. 22, coupled with passengers grounded the night before contributed to increased gridlock at the airport,” Steeves said. “This was not a normal situation, and measures are being put in place to mitigate or prevent similar delays from occurring in the future.”

One problem LGP hopes to eliminate is vehicles circling the airport waiting to pick up passengers. The Port Authority has opened both an alternate passengers pick-up lot and a cell phone lot.

Parking in Lot P10, Terminal B’s parking lot, is open and available and free for two hours for those picking up passengers. P10 is a cell phone lot. Arriving passengers call their ride for pickup once they are curbside.

Lot P7 now also serves as an alternate Terminal B passenger pick-up area where vehicles cannot be left unattended and arriving customers can take the free Blue Shuttle bus to meet their ride in Lot P7, which is also free.

LGP also moved the taxi line east of Terminal B so cabs can exit the airport more quickly and a detour that was creating traffic jams has been fixed.

“On Monday, Aug. 22, the traffic situation at LaGuardia Airport was unacceptable, and though it was impacted by outside factors, the gridlock that resulted cannot and will not be commonplace for travelers,” Steeves said. “Since that time, we have had success in managing the flow of traffic into and out of the airport, but we recognize the need to remain diligent while continuing to plan and adapt as construction progresses and traffic patterns change.”

He said LGP has worked around the clock with the Port Authority, construction managers, engineers, and other airport officials to assess, address and improve the traffic situation. A joint traffic command center has been set up to keep an eye on traffic, especially now that the US Open is underway at Flushing Meadow Corona Park until Sept. 11.

LGP has more than doubled the number of curbside staff to expedite the dropping off and picking up of passengers.

“We are committed to improving the customer experience at LaGuardia Airport,” Steeves said. “And we are excited to move forward on delivering a new, state-of-the-art Center Terminal that all New Yorkers can be proud of.”

Despite improvements since Aug. 22, the federal Transportation Security Administration is recommending that travelers flying out of LaGuardia Airport arrive at least 2 to 2 1/2 hours ahead of their scheduled departure. Frommer’s travel guide is suggesting air travelers avoid LaGuardia altogether until the early phases of construction are complete.

The construction of the new Central Terminal Building is expected to be completed in 2020, according to Steeves. The airport will continue to operate throughout the entire redevelopment project at LaGuardia Airport which is now projected to cost $8 billion which includes a new Delta terminal and other projects..

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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