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    Green light expected for transit hub: 2009 Service Date Seen

Thursday, July 28, 2005 By SHANNON D. HARRINGTON STAFF WRITER

The Port Authority is expected to approve a $2.2 billion plan today for a new transportation hub at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. Green light expected for transit hub

Although the unique design and plan first unveiled in January 2004 by architect Santiago Calatrava remains largely in place, it has been tweaked because of security concerns by New York police according to a Port Authority memo.

The underground hub, marked by a street-level entrance with steel spires that resemble a bird in flight, would create a permanent PATH train station with underground corridors linking commuters with 14 subway lines and ferry terminals. Calatrava will brief Port Authority commissioners on the plan before today's vote. "We look at it as being the Grand Central Terminal of Lower Manhattan," Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia said Wednesday.

After concerns about the design were raised by New York City police, the agency eliminated plans to place glass in between steel wings that will hover over the station's entrance at the northeast corner of Church and Vesey streets, according to the agency memo. Also, the front of the building will be made more blast-resistant, and a pedestrian connection that extended under Church Street to Liberty Park has been eliminated. The memo characterized the changes as minor and said they would not detract from Calatrava's original design.

Plans for the rebuilding of the 16-acre World Trade Center site, destroyed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have been dogged by security concerns that sent planners on other projects back to the drawing board. The original design for the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower was scrapped this year because of concerns about its vulnerability to a terrorist attack. A new design was unveiled last month. City officials also eliminated plans for a tunnel under West Street based on police concerns about the potential for underground bombings. Coscia said he could not rule out the possibility of future changes to the transportation hub. But, he said, the plans have been vetted by police and security consultants. "Security is an ongoing process," Coscia said. "You never get to a point where you are 100 percent certain that you've covered every possibility." But, he added, "We have spent a substantial amount of time on security features and have included others in the discussion to generate a consensus in not just the Port Authority but in external agencies."

Port Authority officials expect to begin construction on the transportation hub in September. Initial construction will include a temporary track to the west of the temporary PATH station that opened in November 2003. That, along with an additional platform that will be built, will allow PATH service to continue uninterrupted during construction.

The Port Authority hopes to have the hub complete in 2009.

Eventually, Coscia said, the hub could serve more than 80,000 PATH riders each day. The temporary station now serves about 41,000. "This is not just any 16 acres," Coscia said of the plans. "It's a fairly unique piece of real estate, and there's an enormous significance with everything we do at the site."

E-mail: harrington@northjersey.com

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