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Calatrava to Build World's Most Expensive Transportation Hub

WTC © Joe Woolhead
WTC © Joe Woolhead

The World Trade Center Complex in Lower Manhattan is slowly progressing, now more than a decade after 9/11.  The Memorial was unveiled on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, while the Freedom Tower is well on its way to completion, proudly displaying the spire that was mounted just a few weeks ago.  The site still is - and will be for many years to come - a maddening array of construction equipment, scaffolding and cranes that are working busily at the various components of WTC's rebuilding.  Yet while all this development is moving forward, the cost of the construction is ballooning.  

According to an article in The Observer, the site now boasts one of the most expensive office buildings in the world - the Freedom Tower - and one of the most expensive parking garages in history - the Vehicle Security Center.  And to add to this grandiose display of New York City's perseverance over tragedy, Santiago Calatrava's Transit Hub - Port Authority's PATH station to New Jersey - has become an exceedingly controversial point of contention for its skyrocketing budget, now reported at $3.47 billion still two years away from completion.  This may be one of the most expensive transportation hubs in the world, considering that its passenger volume does not justify this expense as much as its location might.  

Join us after the break for more.

In the midst of emotions running high shortly after 9/11, approval for the project has boosted its importance at the center of ground zero.  Inspiration for the design, Calatrava says, is a child releasing a bird.  Since then, the design has morphed from a "bird in flight" to an "immobilized stegosaurus" to satisfy early budgetary constraints, but working from the opposite end the scope of work that the Port Authority has now integrated into the construction of the project has caused its price tag to skyrocket.

Concept: WTC Transit Hub / Courtesy of Santiago Calatrava, LLC
Concept: WTC Transit Hub / Courtesy of Santiago Calatrava, LLC

To help fund the Hub the Port Authority diverted funds from its 10-year capital plan, undermining its own regional transportation projects.  "From the proposed ARC rail tunnel beneath the Hudson into Midtown (canceled by Chris Christie in 2010) and an extension of the PATH train to Newark Liberty International Airport (at a cost of around $500 million) to a thorough renovation of La Guardia Airport ($1 billion in capital funding was cut in 2009), the region has needs, and the Port Authority is struggling to fund them," writes Stephen Jacob Smith for The Observer.

Initially, the project was to be funded by the Federal Transportation Authority, which pledged a sum of approximately $1.9 billion before the true costs of the project became clear.  It is important to note how the projects within the World Trade Center are unique in the sense that they were, and continue to be, fueled by emotions associated with the 9/11 attacks.  This once grand symbol of capitalism and the free-market, a financial hub of integrity and global authority, was devastated without warning.  The perception of security and stability were shattered.  How else to regain this symbol of American perseverance than to rebuild a financial center that is equal measure a monument, memorial, and symbol of financial strength?

In short, according to Smith, these perceptions of ground zero's future, permitted the project to exceed the scope of what the FTA would fund under normal circumstances.  The scope of the Hub, which falls into FTA and Port Authority's budget, includes common infrastructure such as a deck over the Hub that was built to support the memorial above, infrastructure costs on Greenwich Street that are loosely associated with the project, and pedestrian passageways connecting to private office buildings offsite.  Lobbying and political muster pushed the funding of these components to be billed to the Port Authority.

The ultimate decision for budgetary concerns was between time and money.  The heavily integrated elements of the World Trade Center meant that the Hub was part of the base for both the Memorial and the ground on which the Freedom Tower sits.  Keeping with the promise to open the Memorial by 2011 meant that construction of the Hub had to be put off just long enough to build a deck that would support the Memorial, escalating costs.  Impatience for construction of other aspects of the project went along the same route, so that Governor Eliot Spitzer's desire to curtail expenses resigned with him when David Paterson took office and the need to charge ahead with construction came above all else.

Calatrava's pricey design was unaltered after its intial bird-to-stegosaurus conversion.  Even with the initial design cutbacks, the price of the project, double the cost at which it was originally bid, comes at the price of those other Port Authority facilities that continue to require maintenance - "100-year-old North River Tunnels to Midtown, the decrepit La Guardia Airport" or delays and shortages along PATH train lines.  In approximately two years time New Yorkers will see what a $4 billion transit hub looks like.  Perhaps then it would justify the expenditure.

via The Observer: PATH/Fail: The Story of the World’s Most Expensive Train Station by Stephen Jacob Smith


Cite:Irina Vinnitskaya. "Calatrava to Build World's Most Expensive Transportation Hub" 03 Jun 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/381166/calatrava-to-build-world-s-most-expensive-transportation-hub/>