Volume 16 • Issue 20 | October 14 - 20, 2003

Port presents plans for PATH hub at W.T.C.

By Josh Rogers

The Port Authority began the environmental review process to build a transportation hub at the World Trade Center site last week and officials said nothing less than Downtown’s future prosperity was hanging in the balance.

“The economy of Lower Manhattan is really what’s at stake for us and for many of you,” Anthony Cracchiolo, director of capital projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said last week at a Downtown public hearing to discuss the scope of the environmental impact statement.

The view is shared by the governor, mayor, as well as many business leaders and residents who say the key to making sure Lower Manhattan recovers from the 2001 terrorist attack is to invest in transportation improvements beyond what existed at the W.T.C. before 9/11.

Many victims’ relatives do not oppose transportation improvements, but object to expanding the area in which PATH commuter tracks cover the footprints of the Twin Towers.

Patricia Reilly, whose sister Lorraine Lee died on Sept. 11, said the historical significance of the footprints “is being sacrificed in the haste to rebuild, and as a result of the economic agendas driving the redevelopment process.”

Reilly, reading a statement on behalf of the Coalition of 9-11 Families, added that “there is no disputing that the footprints of the towers are located on bedrock 70-feet below grade….”

The PATH tracks were built decades before the Twin Towers and the coalition has agreed to let them remain over the pre-9/11 part of the footprints.

The Port expects to open an outdoor temporary PATH W.T.C. station before this Thanksgiving. The permanent station will be expanded from three platforms accommodating eight-car trains to four wider platforms for 10-car trains. The Port, controlled by the New York and New Jersey governors, hopes to begin building the station early in 2005, open the first section at the end of 2006 and finish completely in 2009, Cracchiolo said.

“Gov. Pataki has asked us to meet this schedule and the Port Authority is committed to do its darndest to meet it,” Cracchiolo said at the afternoon hearing last Thursday. The Port held two forums at Bowling Green Thursday and one in Jersey City on Wednesday.

When Gov. George Pataki of New York laid out a rebuilding timetable in an April speech, he said the station construction would either start in 2004 or in 2005.

Cracchiolo said the temporary station will open next month with underground connections to the A,C,E and N,R stations if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agrees to reopen the pedestrian tunnels that survived the destruction of the W.T.C. He said the temporary station will be accessible, although perhaps not convenient for the disabled. “We will be A.D.A. compliant, but you’ll have to switch to four elevators to do that,” he said.

The $2 billion permanent center will have smooth connections to all of the subway lines running to the W.T.C., underground walkways to the World Financial Center in Battery Park City and the subway system’s proposed Fulton Transit Center, and allow for natural light to shine on the train platforms. It is not yet designed, but Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, sometimes described as the “poet of train stations,” is working on the station.

The Port is not closing the door to adding a link to a possible connection to a Long Island Rail Road and J.F.K. Airport at or near the W.T.C., but Joseph Seymour, executive director of the Port told Downtown Express a few weeks ago that he was hesitant because it will be much more expensive to build than a connection between PATH and Newark Airport. Seymour, whose agency controls both airports, did say he would participate with the governor and mayor’s efforts to try and build a connection to the J.F.K., which will cost at least $2 billion.

Jennifer Hensley, director of intergovernmental affairs for the Downtown Alliance, which represents Lower Manhattan property owners, praised the Port for committing to a Newark link and encouraged them to allow one for J.F.K. too.

“We believe the planning must be done now to ensure that the World Trade Center transportation hub is built to incorporate a J.F.K. International-Long Island commuter connection,” Hensley said.

She said the station’s track expansion is necessary to accommodate Downtown’s planned development projects. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has begun the environmental review process for the rest of the site, which will include five office towers, a memorial, museum and cultural centers.

Construction on the Freedom Tower is scheduled to begin in August and be finished two years later. Originally conceived by architect Daniel Libeskind, the 1776-foot tower is being designed by David Childs in consultation with Libeskind. Developer Larry Silverstein, who owns the leasing rights to the site, said during an interview with CBS New York over the weekend that the tower will keep its symbolic height. The New York Post reported that broadcasting companies are looking to make the signature tower 2,000 feet to get the antennae higher.

As for the permanent station, Cracchiolo said the wider platforms are necessary to meet the increased traffic expected on the tracks.

In 1908, what was then known as the H & M (Hudson and Manhattan) train system connecting Downtown to New Jersey first opened, Cracchiolo said. The Port Authority took over the line in 1962 and opened a climate-controlled station in 1971, several years before the Twin Towers were completed.

“At the time it opened it was one of the most modern stations in the world,” he said.

The W.T.C. was by far the busiest station in the PATH system. About 67,000 people used the station a day, representing over 130,000 passenger trips and over one fourth of the PATH traffic, Cracchiolo said. An estimated 25 percent of the incoming W.T.C. passengers would travel to offices on or near Wall St., 21 percent would stay in the W.T.C. complex, 15 percent would take the subway somewhere else, 13 percent would go toward the W.F.C., 10 percent to Tribeca, 10 to the Civic Center area, and about five percent would go immediately south of the W.T.C.

The Port Authority will take public comments on the various stages of the environmental statement until it is finalized in July. To submit comments on the scope of the E.I.S., people can write to WTC PATH Terminal – Comments, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 115 Broadway, fifth floor, N.Y., N.Y. 10006, or e-mail comments by visiting www.panynj.gov/pathrestoration and going to the “contact us” link. The P.A. phone number for the project is 212-435-5599.



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