Earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden visited adorable proto-city Philadelphia, where he talked about the importance of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. Mostly, though, he bagged on LaGuardia Airport, noting, accurately, that it’s dirty and old and filled with unsettling, yellow-tinted flooring and ancient, clanking baggage claims, like something out of the beginning of an airport-themed Saw movie.
“I’ve traveled 800,000 miles since being Vice President,” he told the crowd. “If I blindfolded someone and took them at two o’clock in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said, ‘Where do you think you are?,’ they’d say, ‘This must be America. It’s a modern airport. If I blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you’d think, “I must be in some third-world country.”
“I’m not joking,” he added, when polite, nervous laughter rippled though the room. (And actually, Joe Biden merrily blindfolding someone in the dead of night and dragging them to the world’s various airports to prove a point about infrastructure does sound possible, now that he mentions it.)
You might expect the Port Authority, the entity that runs LaGuardia, to respond to the veep’s comments with a little defensiveness, some insistence that the airport is actually quite lovely, when you get to know it. You’d be wrong.
Two days before Biden even made those remarks, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye was making the same point, albeit less colorfully. According to Bloomberg, Foye noted, “Some of our airport terminals rate among the worst in the country in terms of design and overall passenger experience,” adding, “The need for the upgrade is obvious.”
That’s why they’re proposing a 10-year, $27.6 billion capital improvement project to pay for several long-needed upgrades, including a new central terminal at LaGuardia. That proposal could easily be derailed by the ongoing Chris Christie scandal, including allegations, as the L.A. Times puts it, that the Port Authority is “a secretive patronage haven,” riddled with backroom-dealing, with Christie and others long handing out jobs and contracts there to their friends and donors. However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, not Christie, has been put in charge of managing airport construction projects.
The PA is using Biden’s comments as another opportunity to acknowledge, yes, LaGuardia needs work. In response to an inquiry from the Voice, a Port Authority spokesperson sent over this statement:
“Significant investment in transportation infrastructure is the key to growing our economy and creating jobs, which is why the Port Authority this week proposed a 10-year $27 billion capital plan that creates more than 126,000 jobs and invests $8 billion in modernizing the region’s airports. We are fast-tracking efforts that have lagged for more than a decade and investing $3.6 billion through an innovative public-private partnership to build a new Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia Airport that will provide passengers with a world-class terminal.”
Completely overhauling an ancient and outrageously poorly-equipped airport shouldn’t take long at all. In the meantime, has anyone taken Biden to Penn Station?
Here’s the full clip again, in case you enjoy watching vice presidents get mad: