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Official: LaGuardia Airport should be rebuilt

New York City's LaGuardia Airport, is so outdated that it should be completely demolished and rebuilt, a Port Authority official said Wednesday.
/ Source: Reuters

New York City's LaGuardia Airport, one of the nation's busiest with about 26 million passengers a year, is so outdated that it should be completely demolished and rebuilt, a Port Authority official said Wednesday.

The airport, located in the borough of Queens, is managed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but its current capital plan only has enough money for modest upgrades which fall short of the full modernization that is needed, according to Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward.

The airport offers passengers a "chaotic" experience, he said, partly because the security required in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world has had to be added to buildings that were erected over several decades. One such building, the landmarked Marine Air Terminal, was used for international travel by seaplanes in the 1940s.

"LaGuardia should not be the gateway for fliers into New York City; it should fundamentally be torn down and rebuilt again," Ward said at a Crain's business breakfast.

Asked if the agency would consider a privatization of the airport, Ward told reporters: "At this point, it would be foolish to rule out any funding option."

The Port Authority already has turned to Delta Air Lines and US Airways to help build terminals at LaGuardia. Other airlines did the same at John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark, New Jersey's Liberty International Airport.

The Port Authority should not be constrained by nationwide limits on so-called passenger facility charges, Ward said. Those fees are now set at $4.50 per passenger, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's Web site.

The cash-poor authority has been forced to postpone other major overhauls, including midtown Manhattan's bus terminal as well as a new ramp for the Lincoln Tunnel connecting Manhattan and neighboring New Jersey.

But Ward said that the agency could soon select an equity partner for One World Trade Center, formerly called the Freedom Tower, the $3 billion Ground Zero skyscraper that will be the tallest in the United States when it is finished. The design calls for the completed building to soar 1,776 feet into the sky; that figure matches the year 1776 when the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which let Great Britain know that the 13 former colonies now formed an independent country known as the United States of America.

Three companies are vying to invest about $100 million in the tower, whose metal frame now stands about 24 stories tall. These are Boston Properties Inc, Related Companies and the Durst Organization.