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Old Posted May 5, 2009, 11:52 AM
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NYguy NYguy is offline
New Yorker for life
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Borough of Jersey
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May 5, 2009

NOW that the Port Au thority has scuttled its exclusive contracting arrangement with Phoenix Constructors, a moment of truth is approaching for the PA's over-budget, behind-schedule World Trade Center Transportation Hub -- aka the new PATH terminal at Ground Zero designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Dropping the Phoenix joint venture of four major contractors, a step that puts the PA directly in charge of managing the terminal's development, should streamline the process.

That's essential for the entire WTC site -- the Hub is so big, with so much sprawling, below-grade infrastructure, that a failure to move it forward can stall everything around it.

PA Executive Director Chris Ward is eager to get on with the heavy lifting. He told us last week the authority will soon bid out the three biggest parts of the job.

They are: Bringing the structure up to street level, building the permanent "box" for the MTA's No. 1 subway line, which runs above part of the Calatrava station's underground portion, and, most visibly and dramatically, constructing the above-ground, winged "oculus" that's the new terminal's public face.

Thanks in part to reduced demand, construction costs have been falling after years of escalation, and the PA hopes to take advantage of the situation.

But it will be interesting indeed to see whether the PA gets competitive bids low enough to keep the already far over-budget project within its current, total $3.2 billion estimate. (The PA has spent or committed about $1 billion of that sum on portions of the job already underway.)

"Even with design modifications they've made, this project is still very, very challenging," a construction industry source buzzed. "It has tough engineering issues both below ground and above."

Remember, the MTA had to scuttle the design for its own Fulton Street Transit Center nearby two years ago when bids came in far above the $850 million it could afford.

The catastrophic results are an empty pit where viable buildings once stood, an underground tangle of platforms as confusing as ever and no plans or budget yet to fix the mess.

History needn't repeat itself with the WTC terminal. With so much riding on its completion, let's hope it does not.
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