NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — If you thought trips to the airport were tough enough, now it seems flyers have been forced to drag their bags along the side of the road just to get in and out of LaGuardia.
Was it a case of poor planning by the Port Authority? And will things gets worse as construction clogs the airport?
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, building the new airport at the old airport was bound to cause problems, but no one was expecting this kind of trouble.
It’s happened again and again in recent weeks, and on Monday, the work week began with epic gridlock that prompted some air travelers to leave their taxis on the Grand Central Parkway and drag luggage into the airport on foot.
It affected passengers and employees alike.
“A lot of people was missing their flights; a lot of people was complaining, co-workers were complaining trying to get here,” airport employee David Halloway said.
The bottleneck is at the 94th Street entrance to the airport. The closed entrance ramp means traffic entering and leaving the airport has to use the same intersection. When it gridlocks during high volume, the only way in is to walk from East Elmhurst.
That’s what happened on Monday.
“People were double parking their cars and getting out, leaving their cars, and walking into the airport. It was kind of like at the end of the Civil War, when the troops are like straggling back home,” Barry Duke said.
Duke was at LaGuardia dropping off his niece for her flight out. he said one elderly passenger nearly dropped trying to get to the terminal.
One outbound passenger who was making the walk in from outside the airport said she arrived in the Monday mess and didn’t want to risk getting stuck on the way home.
“I took a taxi over, and asked him to drop me off here because I don’t want to take a chance sitting in an hour trying to get to Terminal B,” Sara Yamotahri said.
Taxi driver Meer Islam picks travelers up at the airport at least twice a day. He said Tuesday night, has been better than most, but he averages about 40 minutes per drive through LaGuardia.
“Most of the time, I can’t even get in or get out,” he said.
Matthew Gartner was making the trek across the roadway to pickup his daughter. He didn’t bother parking near the terminal over concerns about a standstill similar to the one he saw while dropping her off last week.
“When I dropped her off I saw what it was like and I didn’t want to repeat it so I parked over that bridge, and I don’t know how I’m going to get back here with her and her suitcase,” he said.
He added that he believes this type of wait is an inevitable burden of a large upgrade.
“I appreciate the fact they’re building a new one, and I think that will be awesome, and I accept the fact that there will be inconveniences,” he said.
It’s a $5.3-billion project sharing one square mile with a major airport. The project director told CBS2’s Young over the phone that they will do better from this point on.
“We know we’ve had some bad days, particularly yesterday. We acknowledge that was a very bad day. we have all hands on deck working on it,” Rich Smyth said.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, relief doesn’t seem to be on the horizon yet. Anyone flying out of LaGuardia has been advised to give themselves extra time to get to the airport.
The builders said new temporary road systems should be open before the end of the summer.
Frommer’s travel guide is suggesting that air travelers avoid LaGuardia if possible until the early phases of the construction are complete.