federal government will contribute $4.5 billion in
disaster relief money to build a transit center
linking the subway and PATH systems around the former
World Trade Center site, and possibly other
transportation projects, state and federal officials
The agreement, to be announced Monday by Gov.
George E. Pataki, officials of the Federal Emergency
Management Agency and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg,
marks the first definitive step toward linking the
PATH and subway systems, long a dream of
transportation planners. It also represents a
significant departure from previous federal policy,
which dictated that disaster relief money could only
be used to rebuild what was destroyed, not to create
something new, like the underground transfer station.
"That's really the significant thing here, is
the flexibility," one official said. "FEMA's
never been able to do anything like this before."
It is not known how much the subway-PATH complex
will ultimately cost. Officials said some of the money
might be used for other transportation projects in
Lower Manhattan as well, including a pedestrian
walkway linking the World Financial Center, the site
of the former trade center and other points downtown.
They said the agreement leaves state officials with
considerable leeway in selecting those projects, one
of which might be a Metropolitan Transportation
Authority transit station on John Street, about which
no details were available last night.
The $4.5 billion is not new money; rather it is
being reallocated from the $21 billion the Bush
administration and Congress have already pledged to
aid New York's recovery from the Sept. 11 attack that
destroyed the trade center and killed more than 2,800
people. The federal budget has already committed $1.8
billion specifically to rebuilding the shattered PATH
and subway lines.
New York officials, led by Senator Charles E.
Schumer and Gov. George E. Pataki, lobbied hard for
greater flexibility than is usually shown by FEMA,
which is tightly bound by federal law. In particular,
they pressed for the ability to use disaster relief
money to link the two rail systems; under previous
standards, the money could only have been used to
rebuild the subway and PATH lines more or less as they
were, bypassing each other without any connections.
In March, the Bush administration said it intended
to grant that flexibility, but even after that, state
officials said, months of intensive negotiations were
required between FEMA and the governor's office to
reach agreement on how much money would be made
available for transportation projects, and how it
could be used.
Mr. Schumer said last night that the Bush
administration's consent to changing the rules did not
yet have the force of law. "It may need
legislation, but as long as the administration's for
it, it will pass Congress," he said.
No timetable has been set yet for the project,
which will take years to build, and state officials
have not yet decided whether to attempt some kind of
interim solution to get the transit lines in use
City and state officials and urban planners have
long harbored grand visions of linking the city's
various transportation systems. Investments have
already been made, for instance, in a project to
connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central
Terminal, and another to connect the L.I.R.R. to John
F. Kennedy International Airport. Planners have, in
particular, talked of extending the L.I.R.R. line in
Brooklyn, or Metro-North, or both, to Lower Manhattan
and connecting them in a single, all-encompassing hub
with subway and PATH lines — an idea that, for now,
remains no more than a dream.
Last fall, Mr. Pataki asked federal officials for
$54 billion in disaster aid, including billions of
dollars to aid some of those transportation projects
and others, like a Second Avenue subway line, but that
request was rebuffed. Even so, it appears that the
largest piece of the $21 billion aid that was secured
will go toward transportation.