AirTrain Newark replacement authorised

As the nearly 20-year-old AirTrain Newark system reaches the end of its useful life, Port Authority has approved a $40 million plan to build a replacement system.

The Board of Commissioners at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved a $40 million planning commitment to study construction of a new AirTrain Newark system last Thursday.  

The $40 million sum would be gathered through the recovery of airport Passenger Facility Charges, which allow commercial airports controlled by public agencies to collect $4.50 for every boarded passenger. 

The approval also authorises the agency to award an expert technical services contract for approximately $30 million to support the planning initiative.

Once completed, the new system is expected to feature enhanced capacity, better service and increased reliability, according to a Port Authority press release. 

“AirTrain Newark is an important resource for passengers and workers at Newark Liberty, but like much of our regional transportation infrastructure it is showing its age,” said Port Authority chairman John Degnan on the day of the announcement. “Today's action will begin the process of updating the AirTrain system as part of the ongoing modernisation and improvement of Newark Liberty.”

Originally opened in 1996, AirTrain Newark was developed under a long-term design-build-operate-maintain agreement with Bombardier. At first, the train only operated between airport terminals, parking areas and rental facilities. Then, in 2001, the expansion of the system and opening of the Newark Airport Rail Link station connected AirTrain with New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains running along the Northeast Corridor, providing links to major urban areas including New York and Philadelphia, the press release said.

Over the past two decades, ridership on the AirTrain has skyrocketed, with the system facilitating nearly 2.2 million trips in 2014 and with roughly 25,000 daily riders. That increase in ridership, along with the incrementally increasing costs of repairs – both quantitatively and qualitatively in the form of service interruptions – are Port Authority's central justifications for the expenditure.

The release noted that the project will create approximately 90 direct jobs both on- and off-site, with direct payroll wages of $8.3 million for those employees to be supplied through the $30 million allotment. Taking direct and indirect jobs into account, the award is expected to create $60.6 million in economic activity throughout the life of the planning process.

The full cost of the replacement project is set to be taken into account in upcoming reviews of the Port Authority's 10-year Capital Plan.