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New York's LaGuardia Airport To Get Much-Needed Overhaul

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One of the nation's busiest and most maligned airports is getting a $4 billion overhaul. New York authorities are applying the theory of creative destruction. If you want to build something great, destroy something first, like LaGuardia. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: More than 25 million travelers pass through LaGuardia every year, and few of them seem to enjoy the experience. You can count Vice President Joe Biden among the haters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: If I took you blindfolded to the LaGuardia airport in New York, you must think, I must be in some third world country.

ROSE: That was Biden last year. The vice president was also on hand yesterday when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an ambitious plan.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ANDREW CUOMO: ...That doesn't rehabilitate, but replaces the airport in its entirety. There is no way to fix this. We need to literally tear it down and rebuild it.

ROSE: Cuomo unveiled a design for single, unified terminal, in contrast to the hodgepodge of separate terminals that make up LaGuardia today. He said the new airport would eventually connect to Manhattan by rail and ferry, and it will have double the space of the old one. That should lead to fewer delays on the ground, says Erik Hansen of the U.S. Travel Association.

ERIK HANSEN: It's going to make a huge impact in how they move around aircraft, and it can reduce delays, but it's not going to be a silver bullet.

ROSE: The overhaul plan will not affect LaGuardia's runways, and it will do nothing to relieve congestion in the skies above the New York region, which accounts for roughly a third of all air travel delays in the country. Construction on the first phase of the plan is expected to begin next year. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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