NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Newark Liberty Airport's aging monorail could be in for a total makeover.

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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is scheduled to vote this week on whether to commit tens of millions of dollars for planning and designing a system to replace the AirTrain, which has operated at the airport since the mid-1990s and which the agency says is in need of replacement.

At Thursday's board meeting, commissioners will consider whether to authorize $40 million for planning for a new rail system and $30 million for architectural and engineering services to support the planning effort.

The Port Authority, which operates the region's main airports, bridges, tunnels and other transit hubs, wants to begin the planning process this year. No timetable or total cost estimate was included in the introduction to the resolutions to be voted on Thursday. A Port Authority spokesman deferred comment Monday until the board meeting.

The agency plans to ask the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to use passenger facility charges to help pay for the planning costs.

The AirTrain, which connects the airport's main terminals with parking lots and two train lines, has been in service since 1996 and is reaching the end of its design life, the Port Authority wrote.

"Currently, AirTrain experiences crowding issues, because demand exceeds capacity during peak periods and weather-induced delays," the summary read. "Although substantial investment has been made to maintain current operations, such investment has not extended the 25-year design life of the system, nor has it expanded capacity."

More than 2 million travelers used the monorail in 2014, the Port Authority said. Last year, the AirTran had to be closed for repairs for more than two months, forcing travelers to take shuttle buses.

Additional capacity could be needed when the Port Authority finishes its extension of the PATH rail line to the airport from its current terminus at Newark Penn Station. The estimated $1.5 billion project is in the planning phases and is expected to be completed by 2024.


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