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Port Authority officials balked yesterday at potential cost overruns for the permanent PATH train station at Ground Zero, telling the contractor a revised price of up to $3.4 billion is prohibitive.
The bistate agency originally forecast the complex, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, would cost roughly $2.2 billion, but a recent new estimate by Phoenix Constructors now places the price between $2.7 billion and $3.4 billion.
"We have notified Phoenix that costs so substantially above the original budget for the hub are simply unacceptable, and we will need to consider a range of options to complete the project," wrote Tony Shorris, the Port Authority's executive director, in a memo to the agency's chairman and others.
Shorris wrote the Port Authority's estimate included cost overruns of up to $300 million. Most of the station's costs are being covered by the federal government. The memo was released to the media.
Calatrava's station is designed as an icon that resembles a bird taking flight, with a glass and steel atrium and two soaring 150-foot wings, to symbolize Ground Zero's rebirth. The new station would replace the temporary PATH station in December 2009 and be fully operational by September 2010, under an agency timetable.
It will link PATH to the city's downtown subway lines and ferries.
One potential way to save hundreds of millions of dollars would be forgoing a plan to have the station's huge glass roof open. Agency officials said at the outset the idea was contingent on costs.
A message left yesterday seeking comment from a top representative of Phoenix was not returned. Without notification or any public discussion of the deal's merits, Port Authority officials voted behind closed doors in December 2005 to pay Phoenix $1.1 billion to be the project's construction manager and general contractor.
Discussion of a cost overrun raises unexpected concerns about the PATH station, one of the few plans at Ground Zero that has not met with significant controversy during the protracted rebuilding of the former World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Everything's on the table," said Stephen Sigmund, the Port Authority's chief spokesman, while noting the goal is "cutting costs without changing the basic elements of the design."
Based in New York, Phoenix Constructors is made up of four firms: Slattery Skanska Inc., Fluor Enterprises Inc., Granite Halmar Construction Co. Inc. and Bovis Lend Lease, LMB Inc.