Home November 13, 2001
THE HUDSON TUBE
From 70's Relic, a Possible PATH Station
By JAMES GLANZ
The old Hudson and Manhattan Railroad station on the eastern edge of the World Trade Center site, closed since the early 1970's, could be
restored and reopened as a permanent replacement for the PATH station that was partly crushed in the collapse of the trade towers, an official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said yesterday.
The plan, which could cost $1.5 billion, is one of several PATH alternatives under consideration. It would take four to five years and would involve a temporary reopening of the damaged station in
perhaps two years, said the official, Raymond E. Sandiford, the Port Authority's chief geotechnical engineer, who spoke yesterday at a forum on the disaster at Columbia University.
Moving the permanent station to the old Hudson and Manhattan stop — just west of Church Street, and east of the damaged station — would let the Port Authority finish the project without interfering in any private developer's work to raise new buildings at the heart of the trade center site, Mr. Sandiford said. "We could do all our work there, where it's clear of what he's doing," Mr. Sandiford said.
Yesterday's forum, sponsored by the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia, also offered fresh details on the causes and technical implications of the collapse of the trade towers. Both the presentations and the questions from members of the audience, many of them engineers, exposed the roiling uncertainty that the collapses have produced in the technical community over whether the standards and codes that govern building design should be altered to deal with the possibility of terrorist attacks.
The forum's speakers, including many people directly involved in the original design of the towers and the cleanup after their collapse, agreed that no design could guarantee that a building would survive being struck by a jetliner laden with fuel. But many said it was inevitable that, in the wake of the disaster, codes covering fire resistance, structure and
emergency escapes for high-rise buildings would be altered.
"That's going to happen," said Charles Thornton, chairman of LZA/Thornton-Tomasetti, an engineering company that is advising the city on the cleanup. "You're going to have to change the code."
Mr. Thornton and other structural engineers said many life-saving
changes would not necessarily be extremely expensive. He said that simple measures like having crossbeams run continuously through a building — rather than being jointed, or connected as separate pieces, at each vertical column — could help protect against total collapse if one column is knocked out by a bomb or another terrorist attack. Richard Tomasetti, president of LZA/Thornton-Tomasetti, said some of the company's customers were already asking for such measures, even though they have not yet been written into building codes and so are not
Ultimately, code changes could go beyond structural issues, said Frank Lombardi, the Port Authority's chief engineer. "As a result of the World Trade Center, I think you'll see some fire standards be improved," he said.
Each trade tower survived the initial impact of a jet fully loaded with fuel; both collapsed when fires stoked by the fuel softened the steel that held up the towers, creating conditions never envisioned in the towers' design.
Another outcome of the disaster is likely to be the new PATH station. The final plan will be chosen from several alternatives under
consideration, said Allen Morrison, a Port Authority spokesman. "From a policy point of view, there have been absolutely no decisions made on the reconstruction of the PATH station," Mr. Morrison said.
But if engineers can quickly clear debris and secure an underground retaining wall at the trade center site — a structure often called the bathtub, since it keeps the waters of the Hudson out — then the existing, damaged PATH station could be reopened about two years from now, Mr. Morrison said. New pedestrian entrances could be built near Vesey Street to the north and Liberty Street on the south.
In one leading plan, that station would then serve as a stopgap, with few pedestrian connections or amenities, and construction began to reopen the old Hudson and Manhattan stop, which has remained in a state of ghostly abandonment since being closed in 1971. For now the structure consists of little more than an empty concrete box that would have to be lengthened so as many as 10 cars could stop at the platform at once.
Some Port Authority engineers favor this plan because it avoids the complications that would arise if the damaged PATH station were being fully rehabilitated while, in the same area, new buildings were being constructed on the World Trade Center site. That would require close choreography of workers and heavy equipment on the two projects.
The new station would eventually have underground pedestrian connections to all the other subways in the area, including the N, R, E, C, 1, 9, 4, 5, M and J lines.
Any plan to return the PATH train to service will also involve repairing water damage to the system. The train tunnels are still plugged with concrete stoppers on the New Jersey side inserted when water was discovered to be leaking into the tunnels.