NEW YORK -- With less glass, more steel and a toughness to fit the times, the new design for a PATH station at Ground Zero is expected to be approved today by the Port Authority, launching the bistate agency on its biggest public works project in a generation.
The new look for the massive transportation hub will be unveiled at the agency's monthly meeting, where a vote by its board of directors on the revisions and costs is expected to be unanimous. A September groundbreaking is likely, with completion of the $2.2 billion station slated for 2009.
The structure still boasts the 135-foot-high steel wings that were a feature of the design first shown to the public 18 months ago, but the glass that once covered them is gone as a security precaution and to reduce costs.
An oblong, glass atrium enclosing the station will be streamlined and set back farther from Church Street to help thwart car or truck bombs. Twice as many curved steel beams will now line the sides of the atrium.
The changes, which were made primarily for security and cost reasons, were detailed yesterday by project planners, who spoke on the condition of anonymity pending today's official presentation to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by the station's architect, Santiago Calatrava of Spain, who has said the structure resembles a bird in flight to symbolize rebirth.
"It stays pretty faithful to the original design," said Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority, which owns the site and operates the PATH rail system. "From the very beginning, we designed it to be a secure building."
The new PATH station will replace a temporary structure and be a central element in the overall redevelopment of the former World Trade Center site. It will serve New Jersey commuters who work downtown and visitors to the planned, adjacent memorial to the 2,749 people who were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The new station also will provide links to numerous subway lines and ferries.
"The new World Trade Center transportation hub and PATH station will be a major benefit to the tens of thousands of New Jersey commuters who use the station every day to get to work and play," acting Gov. Richard Codey said in a statement.
"The new station will have some spectacular features that will make commuting more convenient and more pleasant, like retail space for errands on the way home and easier links to the ferries and subways," Codey said. "New Jersey commuters deserve this great new facility and I'm personally looking forward to seeing it completed."
Before 9/11, some 67,000 riders used the PATH station beneath the Twin Towers each day. Since the temporary station opened in November 2003, ridership has been returning and now totals more than 40,000 passengers daily.
Port Authority officials believe that by 2025, up to 250,000 commuters, 9/11 memorial visitors and other travelers will use the station each day.
Most of the project is being covered by $4.55 billion in federal funding that was targeted for rebuilding and improving Lower Manhattan's transportation infrastructure after 9/11.
The new station will have two main entrances, one along Church Street facing east and the other along the newly extended Greenwich Street, facing west. The station will be about 100 yards long. Doors also will be located on the sides of the station. Riders and visitors will encounter a balcony at the two major entrances, providing views downward to the upper and lower concourses as well as upward to the cathedral-like space leading to the atrium's highest point of about 80 feet.
The top of the atrium will open a maximum of 30 feet along the upper spine when weather permits and on special occasions, like 9/11 anniversaries, officials said. The soaring attached wings will move as the top opens and closes.
Expansive shopping areas will line the upper and lower concourses.
PATH riders and others will be able to link up with the 1, R, W and E subway lines. An underground tunnel will lead to the World Financial Center and Hudson River ferry lines. Another tunnel will provide links to the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, M and Z subway lines at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's planned nearby Fulton Street Transit Center.
Unlike the proposed 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, which will be the site's signature building, and the 9/11 memorial, the PATH station has faced little criticism since it was first unveiled by Calatrava and the Port Authority in January 2004.
Groups like the Regional Plan Association have enthusiastically endorsed the proposal, though some have raised concerns about the huge price tag.
"Clearly, it's an expensive building," Coscia said. "We were able to obtain federal funding for most of it ... I think we have a responsibility now to build something that's worth what we're paying for it."
Ron Marsico covers the Port Authority and the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 392-7860.