[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 60 (Tuesday, March 30, 1999)]
[Notices]
[Pages 15197-15200]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-7779]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Transit Administration


Alternatives Analysis/Environmental Impact Statement of the 
Extension of Subway Service From Manhattan to LaGuardia Airport

AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration, DOT.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an alternatives analysis/
environmental impact statement (AA/EIS).

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SUMMARY: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Metropolitan 
Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit (NYC Transit) 
intend to prepare an Alternatives Analysis/Environmental Impact 
Statement (AA/EIS) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) for transportation improvements in the corridor between 
LaGuardia Airport and Lower and Midtown Manhattan. MTA NYC Transit will 
ensure that the AA/EIS also satisfies the requirements of the New York 
State Environmental Quality Review Act. The work being performed will 
also satisfy the FTA's alternatives analysis requirements and 
guidelines.
    This effort will be performed in cooperation with the Federal 
Aviation Administration (FAA), the Federal Highway Administration 
(FHWA), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York 
City Departments of Transportation and City Planning and the New York 
State Department of Transportation. Other interested agencies and 
elected officials or bodies include the New York State Office of the 
Governor, the New York City Office of the Mayor, the Office of the 
Borough President of Queens, the New York City Planning Commission, and 
the New York City Council.
    Its proximity to Manhattan makes LaGuardia Airport ideally suited 
to the Manhattan-bound business traveler. However, travelers to 
LaGuardia must use frequently congested highways (Grand Central 
Parkway, Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Long Island Expressway) and river 
crossings (e.g. Midtown Tunnel, Tri-borough Bridge). Peak period travel 
times between Manhattan and LaGuardia are frequently an hour or more, 
and uncertainty regarding travel times forces travelers to set aside 
even more time to avoid missing flights or appointments in Manhattan. 
Unless corrective actions are taken, these access limitations will 
reduce both the airport's appeal to travelers and the attractiveness of 
the city as a national and international center.
    Many other major cities in this country and abroad have direct rail 
rapid transit access to their airports. In contrast, transit service to 
LaGuardia is infrequent or inconvenient, with relatively high fares and 
lengthy and unreliable travel times in peak periods (since the 
available transit modes depend on the same congested highways and local 
streets). However, many LaGuardia passengers have origins or 
destinations within the Manhattan Central Business District (CBD), 
which has an extensive existing rail rapid transit network with 
extensions into Queens. This

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combination forms an established base from which an attractive transit 
link to the airport could potentially be built.
    Given these problems, the AA/EIS will evaluate public transit 
improvements in the corridor between Lower and Midtown Manhattan and 
LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York. In particular, the focus will be 
on proposed extensions of existing rail rapid transit (subway) lines 
that presently operate in Manhattan and Queens, and which would be 
extended along a selected alignment to provide service to the airport.
    Scoping of the AA/DEIS will be accomplished through correspondence 
with interested persons, organizations, and federal, state and local 
agencies, and through public meetings. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
below for details.
    During the initial months of the AA/DEIS process, MTA NYC Transit 
will work with other agencies and with the general public to identify 
potentially feasible alternatives for providing prompt, reliable, 
dedicated access between Lower and Midtown Manhattan and LaGuardia 
Airport. These alternatives should take full advantage of the city's 
existing extensive public transit network, and provide travelers with a 
``single-seat ride'' from points throughout the Manhattan CBD to the 
airport. Only those alternatives found to meet the project's needs, 
goals and objectives would receive detailed consideration in the AA/
DEIS. In addition to possible new transit lines or services, the AA/
DEIS will also evaluate a No-Build alternative and a Transportation 
System Management (TSM) alternative. See the Alternatives discussion 
under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION below for details.

DATES: Comment Due Date: Written comments on the scope of alternatives 
and impacts to be considered should be sent to the MTA-NCY Transit 
offices by May 28, 1999. See ADDRESSES below.
    Scoping Meetings: The public scoping meetings will be held on 
Tuesday, May 11, 1999 starting at 6PM (sign-in begins at 5PM) at the 
Steinway School (IS141) at 37-11 21st Avenue in Astoria, New York, and 
on Wednesday, May 12, 1999 starting at 6PM (sign-in begins at 5PM) at 
the Metropolitan Transportation Authority offices in Manhattan. See 
ADDRESSES below. People with special needs should contact Douglas 
Sussman at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority offices at the 
address below or by calling (212)-878-7483. Both meeting locations are 
accessible to people with disabilities. The Queens location can be 
accessed by subway (Astoria ``N'' line at the Ditmars Boulevard 
Station), and by the Q19A and Q101 bus lines, which also connect to the 
E and F subway lines at the Queens Plaza station, and to the #7 subway 
line at the Queensboro Plaza station. Limited public parking is 
available near the site. The Manhattan location is within several 
blocks of the #4, 5, 6 and 7 subway lines (at the Grand Central 
station) and the B, D and F lines at 42nd Street at 6th Avenue, and to 
numerous local bus routes on Sixth, Fifth and Madison Avenues and along 
42nd Street.
    The meetings will be held in an ``open house'' format, and project 
representatives will be available to discuss the project throughout the 
time period given. Informational displays and written materials will 
also be available. In addition to written comment, which may be made at 
the meeting or as described below, a stenographer will be available at 
the meetings to record comments.

ADDRESSES: Written comments on the project scope should be sent to Mr. 
Thomas R. Jablonski, Project Manager, MTA-NYC Transit, 130 Livingston 
Street, Room 7068-D, Brooklyn, New York 11201. The scoping meetings 
will be held at the following locations: Steinway School (IS 141), 37-
11 21st Avenue, Astoria, New York 11370, and the Metropolitan 
Transportation Authority, 5th Floor Board Room, 347 Madison Avenue, New 
York, NY 10017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian P. Sterman, Federal Transit 
Administration, One Bowling Green, Room 429, New York, New York 10004-
1415. (212)-668-2201.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Scoping

    FTA and MTA-NYC Transit invite interested individuals, 
organizations and federal, state and local agencies to participate in 
defining the alternatives to be evaluated in the EIS and identifying 
any significant social, economic or environmental issues related to the 
alternatives. Scoping comments may be made at the public scoping 
meeting or in writing. See DATES and ADDRESSES section above for 
locations and times. During scoping, comments should focus on 
identifying specific social, economic or environmental impacts to 
evaluate, and suggesting alternatives that are more cost effective or 
have less environmental impact while achieving the similar 
transportation goals and objectives.
    Scoping materials will be available at the meetings or in advance 
of those meetings by contacting Mr. Thomas Jablonski at MTA-NYC Transit 
as indicated above.

II. Description of Study Area and Project Need

    The study area and travel corridors involved are wholly within New 
York and Queens Counties. They primarily include Lower and Midtown 
Manhattan (the Central Business District (CBD) of Manhattan) and those 
portion of northern and northwestern Queens through which passengers 
and employees pass on their way to and from LaGuardia Airport. The 
Manhattan CBD is one of the largest and most dense employment 
concentrations in the world, but also includes a major residential 
population. The involved areas of Queens include numerous commercial 
and industrial centers as well as major residential areas.
    Existing transit service between the Manhattan CBD and LaGuardia 
Airport includes: (a) Gray Line bus service from various CBD locations; 
(b) ferry service from Lower Manhattan to LaGuardia's Marine Air 
Terminal (MAT); and (c) local bus lines connecting existing subway 
lines to the airport (e.g., the Q33 and Q47 bus routes connecting with 
the ``E,'' ``F'' and ``R'' subway lines at the Roosevelt Avenue 
station, the Q48 bus route from the ``7'' subway service at Main 
Street-Flushing, and the M60 bus route from the ``N'' subway service at 
the Astoria Boulevard station). The available paratransit services in 
this travel market include medallion taxis, private car and limousine 
services, and private vans and mini-buses operated by hotels and other 
Manhattan operations.
    As noted above in the Summary section, all transit and paratransit 
modes serving the airport (except the ferry service to the MAT) must 
use combinations of local streets, arterials, highways and bridges and 
tunnels, many of which are highly congested during the travel periods 
when airport demand is the greatest. In addition to traffic congestion 
and the associated air and noise pollution, travel by these existing 
highway-dependent modes is often unrealible--a fundamental problem for 
time-sensitive air travelers.
    Given the need to address these airport access problems, the 
primary goals for the LaGuardia Airport Subway Access (LASA) project 
are to (a) provide convenient, reliable and safe public transit access 
for airport passengers and employees between Lower and Midtown 
Manhattan and LaGuardia Airport, (b) develop public transit options 
providing a ``one-seat'' (i.e., transfer-free) trip between Lower and 
Midtown Manhattan and multiple LaGuardia

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Airport terminals, (c) improve the quality of public transit service 
and reduce the travel time within the study corridor from LaGuardia 
Airport to the Manhattan CBD, (d) reduce the use of congested highway, 
river crossings, local streets and arterials by LaGuardia Airport 
passengers and employees, thereby reducing areawide traffic congestion, 
(e) increase mobility by better serving the critical Manhattan CBD-to-
LaGuardia Airport travel market, and by creating improved connections 
within the region to the Manhattan CBD, (f) attract new ridership to 
public transit through the initiation of additional service to 
LaGuardia Airport, (g) minimize impacts to airport operations during 
and after construction, and ensure that proposed alignments do not 
preclude other planned improvements on- or off-airport, (h) promote and 
reinforce economic development and the quality of life in New York, (i) 
more efficiently accommodate forecasted growth in LaGuardia Airport 
passenger trips, (j) conform to the New York State Air Quality 
Implementation Plan (SIP) as required by the Clean Air Act Amendments 
of 1990, (k) avoid, minimize and mitigate degradation of the natural 
environment, and (j) provide reliable transit service that is 
compatible with existing transit systems in the region.
    Adherence to these goals should help identify new services that 
take full advantage of the city's extensive transit network in the 
Manhattan CBD and Queens, maximize the potential for a ``single-seat'' 
ride from Lower and Midtown Manhattan to LaGuardia, preserve the city's 
quality of life while supporting economic development, and minimize the 
degradation of the natural environment.
    The objectives to be used to facilitate the process of selecting a 
locally preferred alternative are to (a) identify viable alternatives 
that address the corridor's transportation problems while meeting the 
project's goals; (b) develop criteria for screening and evaluating the 
alternatives based upon the project's goals; (c) identify the 
anticipated impacts for each alternative with potential mitigation 
strategies; (d) initiate the development of cost/benefit projections 
that are used for project considerations; and (e) identify the locally 
preferred alternative for study in the FEIS.

III. Alternatives

    The AA/DEIS process will include a review of proposed alternatives 
that could potentially meet the project's goals and objectives, and the 
selection of those alternatives that warrant detailed study in the AA/
DEIS. This process will insure that all reasonable and feasible 
alternatives are considered. It is projected that the AA/DEIS will 
consider the following alternatives, at a minimum:
    (1) No Build Alternative, representing future conditions in the 
travel corridors between the Manhattan CBD and LaGuardia Airport with 
no new transportation projects or services, other than those already 
committed to by local officials and agencies.
    (2) Transportation Systems Management (TSM) Alternative, 
representing future conditions with the implementation of one or more 
lower-cost measures to improve the efficiency of existing 
transportation systems, rather than significantly expanding those 
systems (e.g., improvements to the existing express bus services, 
subway-to-bus connections to the airport, etc.).
    (3) Build Alternatives, involving construction of facilities and 
implementation of associated transit services between the Manhattan CBD 
and LaGuardia Airport. In recent decades, the MTA, PANYNJ and other 
public agencies have performed extensive studies of possible transit 
connections to this airport. Based on those studies and on further 
studies by MTA NYC Transit of possible extensions of the BMT Broadway 
Astoria Line (``N'' Train service), the following two subway 
alternatives are scheduled to be considered in the AA/DEIS. These are 
preliminary alignments for these alternatives, with further refinements 
expected throughout the AA/DEIS process in both the off- and on-airport 
sections:
     The 19th Avenue Alternative would be an extension of the 
BMT Broadway-Astoria Line (``N'' Train service) beyond its present 
Ditmars Boulevard Terminus. From that point, the line would be extended 
northerly as a modern aerial transit guideway structure along the 
centerline of 31st Street up to 20th Avenue. From there, the alignment 
would curve easterly across the Con Edison property to 19th Avenue, 
where it would continue along the avenue. At 45th Street, the alignment 
would swing northerly and then enter a tunnel section, in which the 
alignment would remain as it crosses onto the airport property. After 
serving the Marine Air Terminal and passing around the runway at the 
airport's western end, the alignment would rise onto an aerial section, 
and extend to two other on-airport stations--one at the Central 
Terminal Building (CTB) and a second to jointly serve the USAir and 
Delta terminals.
     Sunnyside Yard Alternative would be a branch of the BMT 
Broadway-Astoria Line (``N'' Train service) starting at the Queensboro 
Plaza Station in Long Island City. From that point, the alignment would 
extend as a modern aerial transit guideway structure along the northern 
side of the Sunnyside Yards, and would then pass over and run along the 
eastern side of AMTRAK's Northeast Corridor tracks. At approximately 
30th Avenue, the alignment would turn east and run along the northern 
side of 30th Avenue before turning north along the Brooklyn-Queens 
Expressway (BQE). At that point, the alignment will enter a ``depressed 
section'' (where the tracks are below grade but in an ``open cut'' 
section rather than enclosed in a tunnel) as it travels along the 
southern side of the Grand Central Parkway (GCP). As it approaches the 
airport, the alignment would rise and cross over the GCP to enter the 
airport. On-airport stations are projected to be provided at the CTB 
and USAir/Delta terminals as noted above for the 19th Avenue 
Alternative.
    (4) Other Alternatives. The FTA and MTA NYC Transit will review 
other possible Build alternatives that may be raised throughout the 
scoping process. Any other alternatives found to potentially meet the 
project's goals and objectives, as outlined above, would also be 
analyzed in the AA/DEIS.

IV. Probable Effects

    The FTA and MTA NYC Transit plan to evaluate in the AA/DEIS all 
potentially significant social, economic and environmental impacts of 
the project alternatives. Impacts proposed for analysis include changes 
in the physical environment (air quality, noise, water quality, 
geology, visual); changes in the social environment (land use, 
residential, commercial or industrial displacement or disruption, 
changes in neighborhood character or cohesion); changes in traffic and 
pedestrian circulation (on local streets, highways and arterials, and 
at the airport) and associated changes in traffic congestion; impacts 
to parklands or historic sites; changes in transit service, mobility 
and patronage; capital, operating and maintenance costs for proposes 
transit services; and financial and fiscal implication. Impacts will be 
analyzed for both construction-period activities, and for long-term 
operation of the alternatives.
    Construction-period impacts projected to be of importance for this 
project include noise and vibration, traffic diversions due to 
temporary roadway closures, temporary loss of on-street parking, and 
short-term

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disruptions to subway service. Potential long-term impact of likely 
importance include traffic, parking and pedestrian flow impacts near 
stations (including on-airport locations), visual impacts due to the 
introduction or extension of transit lines into an area, noise impacts, 
and property acquisitions and residential or commercial displacement to 
provide space for alternatives' right-of-way or support facilities.
    Each alternative will be analyzed for potential transportation, 
environmental, social, economic and financial impacts as required by 
current Federal (NEPA) and State (SEQRA) environmental laws and current 
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and FTA guidelines and will be 
evaluated for it's ability to meet the project's goals.

V. FTA Procedures

    In accordance with federal transportation planning regulations 23 
CFR part 450, the AA/DEIS will include a comprehensive alternatives 
selection process, which will assess each possible alternative's 
ability to meet the project's goals and objectives, and determine those 
alternatives that warrant detailed analysis. Upon completion of the AA/
DEIS, the MTA NYC Transit, in concert with other agencies and elected 
officials and bodies, will select a locally preferred alternative.
    Then the MTA NYC Transit, as the project sponsor, will seek to 
continue the further engineering and preparation of the Final EIS. 
After consideration of the results of the FEIS, the FTA and MTA NYC 
Transit and the FAA will prepare required environmental decisions and 
Records of Decision (RODs). The publication of these RODs will clear 
the way for the final design and construction of the finally selected 
alternative.

    Issued on March 25, 1999.
Letitia Thompson,
Regional Administrator, Federal Transit Administration.
[FR Doc. 99-7779 Filed 3-29-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-57-M