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Issue 349  January 22, 2002

Reconnecting Downtown 

During January, Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corp. officials and the Port Authority publicly discussed plans for a major downtown Manhattan transit hub. The Port Authority plan envisions a PATH station under the World Trade Center site. 

It would link downtown destinations and transit lines with a 3000-foot underground concourse, running from the World Financial Center to a renovated Fulton Street subway station. Like the World Trade Center's lower levels, the concourse would feature extensive retail space. Its length, however, would require airport-like moving sidewalks to speed pedestrian connections between transit lines. Between the World Financial Center and Fulton Street, the concourse would provide access to the 1/9, E, N/R and 4/5 subways. Fulton Street provides links between the 4/5, A/C, J/M and 2/3 subways. 

Under the plan, the confusing network of tunnels and platforms at Fulton would be made more pleasant and easier to navigate.  Officials say this plan could be well under construction within five years. The Port Authority plans to have downtown PATH service operating out of an interim terminal within two years. The MTA hopes to have the 1/9 subway back in service late this year. The long term Port Authority plan is somewhat at odds with a Regional Plan Association proposal made last fall to construct two downtown PATH stations, one near the World Trade Center site and one adjacent to the Fulton subway complex. 

 Some downtown interests also continue to discuss the possibility of adding commuter rail service to lower Manhattan as the rebuilding process proceeds. Lower Manhattan property owners have long sought the direct suburban rail connections enjoyed by Midtown Manhattan.  Such a fundamental decision would have to be made very early in the planning for downtown, since it would affect most other elements of the rebuilding plan and have repercussions for projects and budgets throughout the metropolitan region. 

Adding a link from the Long Island Railroad's Brooklyn branch, or some kind of Metro-North extension to Lower Manhattan, would require tunnel and station space that current planning does not appear to envision. A downtown NJ Transit line would make PATH restoration redundant.  Equally significant, without new revenue or dramatically reordered priorities, such projects would bust commuter rail budgets. 

The Long Island Railroad is developing an expensive link to Grand Central Terminal. The MTA is also trying to get the 2nd Avenue subway underway. NJ Transit needs additional tunnel capacity to Midtown, but has no money to pay for it. Each of these projects would serve already burgeoning travel markets. In the big picture, the region cannot afford to put them on hold. 

Mobilizing the Region A weekly bulletin from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign

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