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    Lower Manhattan PATH hub is a go: $699M is released for projects at WTC site

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 BY RON MARSICO Star-Ledger Staff
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the green light to the Port Authority to build a $2 billion PATH hub at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, paving the way for the project's groundbreaking late this summer.

At the same time, the Federal Transit Administration has released $699 million to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for infrastructure improvements at the former World Trade Center site. That money is part of the previously promised $4.55 billion in federal aid for transit projects downtown to replace and improve the system that was devastated by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "It is vitally important to the tens of thousands of our citizens who work in, live in or visit Lower Manhattan that we continue to move aggressively forward to upgrade the transportation infrastructure on the site," acting Gov. Richard Codey said in a statement.

Ridership has steadily returned to the temporary PATH station at Ground Zero since it reopened in November 2003. More than 40,000 riders use the facility each day, though 67,000 people a day used the original station before 9/11, according to the Port Authority.

Port Authority officials are planning to break ground within the next two months on architect Santiago Calatrava's design for the station, an oblong glass-and-steel atrium with wings soaring 150 feet high. The hub will link PATH to the city's downtown subway lines for the first time and also provide access to Hudson River ferry routes.

Anthony Coscia, the Port Authority's chairman, said the EPA found the plans would not adversely affect traffic, air quality or other quality-of-life considerations for residents and office workers downtown. "We've satisfied it," Coscia said. He also said the FTA funding will jump-start various projects at the site. "This $700 million gives us the ability to build out the subground infrastructure," Coscia said.

Those projects include a new containment area on the southern section of the tract, where a vehicle checkpoint is planned along with a potential parking area for tour buses. New slurry walls will be built on the eastern side, while existing concrete containment walls will be permanently reinforced. Additionally, a concrete-and-steel slab will be installed to protect pedestrians in one part of the new transportation hub.

Coscia said the infrastructure projects are critical not only to the building of Calatrava's hub, but also to building two of five office towers and a shopping mall planned for the complex.

Ron Marsico covers the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. He may be reached at rmarsico@starledger.com or (973) 392-7860.

© 2005 The Star Ledger

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