WTC tran­sit hub opens un­der cloud of $4-B cost

Business Mirror - - THE WORLD -

NEW YORK—The soar­ing, white trans­porta­tion hub open­ing next week at the World Trade Cen­ter (WTC) was de­signed to evoke a bird in flight, but it is hatching un­der a cloud.

There will be no rib­bon- cut­ting cel­e­bra­tion when the train sta­tion’s grand hall, called the Ocu­lus, opens this com­ing week be­cause the head of the bi- state agency that con­trols the hub has blasted it as a “sym­bol of ex­cess,” with run­away costs ap­proach­ing $ 4 bil­lion. That’s roughly the same price as the na­tion’s tallest sky­scraper, next door— the 104- story One World Trade Cen­ter.

“The cost of projects, big and small, mat­ters— a lot,” Pa­trick Foye, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Port Au­thor­ity (PATH) of New York and New Jersey, said in a state­ment through a spokesman. “Whether due to un­fore­seen con­di­tions, er­rors or mis­con­duct, cost over­runs con­sume pre­cious re­sources and un­der­mine pub­lic con­fi­dence.”

Af­ter first in­di­cat­ing that there would be no cer­e­mony at all, of­fi­cials with the au­thor­ity said late on Thurs­day that the tran­sit fa­cil­ity would par­tially open on March 3, and that there would be a cer­e­mony when it be­comes “fully op­er­a­tional” later this spring.

Rib­bon cut­ting or not, the hub, which in­cludes a com­muter rail sta­tion, retail shops and con­nec­tions to sev­eral sub­way lines, ap­pears des­tined to take its place among the city’s most talked-about land­marks.

In­tended to serve partly as a mon­u­ment to the vic­tims of the Septem­ber 11, 2001, at­tacks, the hub was de­signed by Span­ish-born ar­chi­tect San­ti­ago Cala­trava to con­vey the feel­ing of a bird re­leased into the air, with steel wings poised for take­off. Some crit­ics have com­pared it to a di­nosaur skeleton or an ar­madillo.

Ad­ja­cent sky­scrapers can be seen through the bird’s curved white ribs, which en­close a vaulted, cathe­dral- like space. “It is a mon­u­ment to life, it is a mon­u­ment of faith in this city and a mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to the peo­ple,” Cala­trava said dur­ing a re­cent tour.

The sta­tion is re­plac­ing one that served PATH trains to and from New Jersey and that was de­stroyed along with the twin tow­ers in 2001. Though some parts of the hub are still un­der con­struc­tion, PATH trains will ul­ti­mately be con­nected to 11 New York City sub­way lines, as well as fer­ries. Shops and restau­rants sched­uled to open this sum­mer will give tourists and com­muters a rea­son to linger.

“I think of the per­son who comes to New York com­mut­ing, lives in a very mod­est apart­ment some­where in New Jersey, comes here and has to go to work maybe in a cel­lar and do a very sim­ple work,” Cala­trava said. “In this minute that I am here, I can at least en­joy a place in which some­body is say­ing, ‘ You are an im­por­tant guy.’”

Steve Plate, the chief of ma­jor cap­i­tal projects for the Port Au­thor­ity, called the hub “the eighth won­der of the world” and de­scribed how the build­ing “is aligned pre­cisely to al­low the sun to come in ex­actly in that open­ing on Septem­ber 11 at 10: 28, when the last tower fell, to cap­ture that light and re­mem­ber that mo­ment.” When Cala­trava’s de­sign for the trans­porta­tion hub was an­nounced in 2004, it was bud­geted at $2 bil­lion, and then- New York Gov. Ge­orge Pataki said it would be fin­ished by 2009.

The Port Au­thor­ity puts the cur­rent cost at $3.9 bil­lion be­cause of over­runs and de­lays blamed on fac­tors, in­clud­ing the ar­chi­tect’s ex­act­ing de­mands and the com­plex­ity of build­ing the hub while the Septem­ber 11 mu­seum and new of­fice tow­ers were also un­der con­struc­tion.

In a marvel of en­gi­neer­ing, the new com­plex was built around, be­neath and above an ex­ist­ing, still- op­er­at­ing sub­way line. That line, the No. 1 train, now passes through the new hub on a 60- me­ter- long bridge that lacks any sup­port col­umns. The de­ci­sion to keep the sub­way line in­tact was partly re­spon­si­ble for the huge cost.

The 64-year- old Cala­trava, best known for train sta­tions in Euro­pean cities, in­clud­ing Lis­bon and Zurich, has com­plained of be­ing un­fairly blamed for cost over­runs at the trade cen­ter, telling The Wall Street Jour­nal last May, “I have been treated like a dog.” The Port Au­thor­ity’s Plate de­fended the build­ing’s costs.

AP/MARK LENNIHAN

THE World Trade Cen­ter Trans­porta­tion Hub, de­signed by Span­ish ar­chi­tect San­ti­ago Cala­trava, is un­der con­struc­tion in this July 16, 2015, photo. It is set to open next week.

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