Federal officials gave Newark Liberty International Airport’s owners a key nod to move forward on the $2 billion replacement of its decades-old monorail.
The Aug. 13 decision by the Federal Aviation Administration – which approved the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s environmental assessment of the ecological impact of the monorail replacement – marks the clearing of a key hurdle for officials who plan to start groundbreaking next year.
Port Authority officials envision the 2.5-mile train system will replace the original AirTrain, which opened in 1996 and has remained “vulnerable to frequent breakdowns and delays,” reads a statement from the bi-state agency.
Agency officials estimate that in 2019 the monorail saw an average of 33,000 passengers a day, out of the more than 46.5 million record-high air travelers using Newark airport.
“The current AirTrain Newark has outlived its usefulness,” Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole, an appointee by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie, said Aug. 17. “Its replacement will create a new rail system that offers a 21st-century customer experience for airport visitors and employees.”
Construction is slated to start in the middle of 2022 and the monorail would open in 2026, the Port Authority said. Four companies in May got the green light to draft their designs for what the new monorail would look like: Liberty AirTrain Partners, Liberty Integrated Connectors, Liberty Mobility Express and Tutor Perini/Parsons JV.
“This decision is a key step in replacing the long-outdated AirTrain,” Gov. Phil Murphy, who outlined the goal in 2019 for the new monorail, said in the Aug. 17 statement. “New Jerseyans and travelers deserve a world-class transit system at Newark airport.”
As travel rebounds from the pandemic, transportation officials are moving ahead with the $2.7 billion construction of the nearby Terminal One, which could open this year and will replace Terminal A, which opened in 1973.
But, the recovery for air travel has been notably sluggish, and transportation insiders do not expect the industry to fully rebound until 2022 at the earliest.