Murphy calls for $2.1B replacement for Newark Airport monorail
NEWARK — With a replacement for Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal A underway, and the prospect on the books of extending PATH train service to the airport, Gov. Phil Murphy says now is the time for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to replace the AirTrain monorail.
The AirTrain began service in 1996, meaning it is near the end of its quarter-century lifespan. It carries around 33,000 passengers a year, both within the airport and connecting out to NJ Transit and Amtrak, which Murphy said is beyond its capacity.
“As I say, 11 million riders a year on this system,” Murphy said. “They deserve more than a bubble gum and duct tape approach for meeting their flights.”
Murphy said it would cost $400 million to keep the AirTrain running for another decade or $2.1 billion to build a new one, which he indicated could include private funding.
“So a simple thought is let’s not waste money keeping it on life support,” Murphy said. “Let’s invest in a modern and reliable AirTrain.”
Murphy was joined at a Newark news conference by top officials from the Port Authority, who didn’t commit to the project but made clear they understood its importance to Murphy. The agency is preparing to re-work its long-term capital plan.
Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton said the AirTrain is beyond its designed life and that the agency has a long way to go in meeting its goal for making its three airports – Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia – global leaders.
“Every single consumer survey puts our airports at the absolute bottom of the survey. That is indefensible and unacceptable,” Cotton said.
“We have to rebuild our legacy infrastructure. We need new facilities, new terminals, new everything,” said Cotton, who said a dozen initiatives to improve the customer experience are also underway.
A $2.7 billion replacement for Terminal A is under construction, and the Port Authority has committed to a new $300 million consolidated car-rental facility at Newark Airport.
Port Authority board chairman Kevin O’Toole cited other major Port Authority projects in New Jersey, as well, such as elevating the Bayonne Bridge, rebuilding the Lincoln Tunnel helix and a new bus terminal.
“You name it, we’re doing it,” O’Toole said. “We are turning around this agency that has been stagnated, that has been stigmatized, that has been mired in all kinds of issues of years past.”
Murphy’s news conference started about 20 minutes late – mostly because of delays on the AirTrain he rode in on.
“We kept stopping, and it was not a scheduled stop. And I think we were living the reality of this system in cold weather,” Murphy said.
Murphy says beyond being frustrating for riders, businesses thinking of moving to New Jersey ask about the reliability of transit and access to the airport.
“When AirTrain breaks down, as it all too often does, particularly as we were discussing a short while ago in extreme weather, including extreme cold like today, Newark Liberty simply cannot function as it should,” he said.
Murphy declined to take a public position on a proposal to raise the tax on jet fuel on flights at Newark Airport, as part of a plan to extend PATH train service to the airport.
But he said the AirTrain replacement should be complete before the PATH extension so that the system could absorb the additional passengers.