The long-delayed project to replace the notoriously congested LaGuardia Airport was finally cleared for takeoff this week. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and US Vice President Joseph Biden unveiled the final plan that incorporated results of a design competition insisted upon late in the process by the Governor.
The winning consortium, LaGuardia Gateway Partners, is led by Swedish construction company Skanska, French fund manager Meridiam, and Vantage Airport Group, which operates Vancouver International Airport. American firms in the venture include Walsh Construction, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey selected the group in May, but the deal was in limbo because Cuomo added the requirement of a design competition in October 2014.
The Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, based in Sydney, Australia, warned that the competition raised “concerns as to whether it will be possible to reconcile the existing terminal redevelopment, which the Port Authority and the bidders have already spent two years working on, with the design competition’s recommendations”.
Changes raised the projected cost of the project from $3.6bn to $4bn (€3.6bn). The contract with the public-private partnership undertaking the project includes taking over operations of the existing central terminal building and designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining a new replacement terminal.
Cuomo reportedly insisted that the project utilise a master plan resulting from the competition, which was only settled this summer, allowing the project to proceed. A key feature of the scheme is a single, structurally unified main terminal preferred by Cuomo, instead of the multi-terminal concept originally proposed.
The Skanska consortium is expected to provide a $200m capital contribution and raise an additional $2bn through bonds secured by airport revenue. The consortium will receive a share of the new airport’s revenues.
About $1.5 billion of the costs are expected to come from the Port Authority in the form of passenger fees. The Authority has said it will spend as much as $400m on the centralised entry terminal.
The project is expected to begin in early 2016, with the first part of the new airport opening to passengers in 2019. The contract runs until 2050. Skanska’s share of the equity investment is reportedly up to 40%, while its share of the construction contract is 70%.
LaGuardia, which opened in 1939, handled 27 million passengers in 2014 – nearly 25% of the volume of people who flew in and out of the New York Metro region – buts its main terminal dates from 1964, and the airport lacks the amenities that are now standard in modern airports. Volume is expected to increase to 34 million passengers by 2030.
The new scheme aims to speed passengers between gates and ground transport options and to accelerate the flow of planes from runways to terminals and increase turnover at gates. There are no plans to add a third runway.