WTC Transit Hub $500M Over Budget, 5 Years Behind Schedule

Just days before the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is due to release an update on the construction timetable and costs of rebuilding the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, new reports have surfaced claiming the planned transit hub is $500 million over budget and five years behind schedule. The Port Authority is scheduled to issue an update on the WTC rebuilding at its board meeting Thursday and is also expected to announce a redesign of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s initial $2.5 billion plan. As previously reported by CPN, Christopher Ward, the new Port Authority executive director, had said July 1 that the agency was seeking a redesign that would trim millions from the transit hub’s plan. Ward’s comments came around the same time he had addressed the New York Building Congress about the agency’s capital plans and warned that the World Trade Center projects were facing major delays and higher costs. Reports from the federal government’s engineering consultants, Carter & Burgess, going back at least two years were already claiming the rail hub project would be behind schedule, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press through a Freedom of Information request. The consultants were required to issue new reports every three months to the Federal Transit Administration, which had provided $1.9 million for the project. In 18 months of documents reviewed, the reports repeatedly note delays in getting contractors and the inability to make timely decisions. The delays were reported soon after construction began in 2006. Today’s story by AP writer Amy Westfeldt cited a July 2006 report that stated the project had a less than 10 percent chance of being on budget. An early 2008 report said the project was less than 5 percent likely to come in on budget. In a Sept. 22 interview with the New York Times, New York Governor David Paterson said rebuilding efforts at the WTC site were “more of a mess than you know.” The location of the transit hub, in the center of Ground Zero beneath several skyscrapers, the planned 9/11 memorial and museum, streets and a vehicle security center, puts many of the other projects at risk of delay too, officials have said. The transit hub would replace the PATH station that was destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks and a temporary station opened five years ago. Despite all the talk of delays and cost overruns, there has been progress at Ground Zero. In an article earlier this month marking the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, CPN reported that four towers are in early stages of construction, including the 1,776-foot tall Freedom Tower that will be the centerpiece. Leasing is ongoing at Larry Silverstein’s 7 World Trade Center, the first tower to be rebuilt and one of several Silverstein Properties is developing there. On Sept. 2, construction workers began erecting steel for the 9/11 memorial and museum. Today, the Port Authority announced it hired Sam Schwartz, president & CEO of Sam Schwartz Engineering, to coordinate the vehicle and pedestrian traffic around the WTC as construction increases. A former city Traffic Commissioner known to New Yorkers as “Gridlock Sam,” he will work out of the Port Authority’s newly created WTC Program Logistics Office and will also help manage site logistics for the various construction projects. The Port Authority said he would also work as a liaison with Lower Manhattan business and community leaders.