Planes, trains, autos: Wheels up on LIMA ‘ground hub’

Get a shovel: Dignitaries dig in at the ceremonial groundbreaking for Long Island MacArthur Airport's new ground-transit hub.

A key component of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council’s strategic investment has taken flight – actually, broken ground – at Long Island MacArthur Airport.

This week, a gaggle of state and local politicos joined regional rainmakers to mark the beginning of work on a new “intermodal facility” at the Islip aerodrome, designed to increase air traffic by facilitating easier ground transportation.

The project will renovate an existing airport building into a 12,000-square-foot hub with accommodations for airline passengers who park their autos at MacArthur Airport, need to rent a car, plan to hail a taxi or are hopping a Suffolk County Transit bus, or a shuttle to the Long Island Rail Road’s nearby Ronkonkoma station.

The $8.4 million renovation, funded in part by an $800,000 grant from the New York State Department of Transportation and a $650,000 stipend from the Empire State Development Corp., was prioritized by the LIREDC in the most recent round of Albany’s annual Regional Economic Development Council competition, with the Long Island funding application stressing the airport’s importance to regional economic competitiveness.

Steve Bellone: Big piece of the puzzle.

In a prepared statement, LIREDC co-chairmen Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, and Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz applauded the ground-hub groundbreaking and called MacArthur Airport “vital to the economic health of the region.”

“By integrating services and amenities in one location, travelers will be greeted with a modern facility that will be safer, more centralized and easier to navigate,” the co-chairs added. “This is another way we continue to make Long Island more attractive to everyone, whether they are looking to visit or locate their business to the region.”

Among other features, the new facility will house MacArthur Airport’s baggage claim area and rental-car counters – both currently located in LIMA’s main terminal – and will centralize the airport’s rental car ready-and-return lots.

It will also include the airport’s new taxi stand, covered walkways, the LIRR shuttle and the Suffolk Transit bus stop.

Coinciding with $21 billion in renewal and modernization projects at John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in Queens, the MacArthur Airport ground-transit hub continues more than $316 million in statewide local-airport renovations funded by Albany over the past five years – evidence that “New York is continuing to rebuild and revitalize its infrastructure in the face of a long drought of federal support,” according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“That commitment means moving the state’s airports into the 21st century,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “This new one-stop facility … will give businesses and visitors to the New York City and Long Island regions an improved and streamlined travel experience.”

A number of Long Island officeholders and stakeholders joined the governor in heralding the start of the ground-hub project, with State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Dominguez referencing a modernization effort that will “enhance the airport experience for travelers” and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone applauding “a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to attracting new businesses and visitors to Long Island.”

Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter trumpeted “more than $50 million in capital-improvement projects” completed or started since 2016 at the airport, which is owned by the Town of Islip.

“We are consistently working to update and improve MacArthur Airport’s infrastructure to provide an excellent customer experience and modernize aging areas and components,” Carpenter added. “This major renovation project comes at no expense to local taxpayers and provides many benefits to our airport and community.”