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Options for new downtown Tubes terminal 10/25/01

BY AL FRANK  STAR-LEDGER STAFF 

With its World Trade Center terminal buried by tons of debris, PATH service to lower Manhattan is unlikely to resume for 18 months to two years, officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said yesterday.  Even so, the agency is considering ideas to transform a renovated or relocated station into a downtown transportation hub at a cost of as much as $1.7 billion. 

While the options do not call for extending the PATH line east, they do include the creation of an underground network of corridors and motorized walkways to provide riders easier transfers to the New York City subways that converge in the neighborhood.  Before the attacks, riders transferring to the A-C-E, 1-9 and N-R lines had to take escalators from the PATH platforms and walk considerable
distances through a maze of passageways to subway stations. 

The latest concepts call for more direct and less confusing routes. One idea even calls for installing moving walkways as far east as Nassau Street to connect with the 4-5 lines that serve the East Side and Brooklyn. 

Agency officials, who asked not to be named, said linking the systems would not only transform the present jumble into a transportation nexus similar to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and New York Penn Station but also give the agency a key role in the rebuilding of lower Manhattan. "Restoring PATH service downtown is a priority for the whole region that should bring New Jersey and New York together," one of the officials said.  A Port Authority spokeswoman said all options are broad concepts the bistate agency's staff is preparing for discussion by the board of commissioners. 

"The Port Authority is still analyzing the impact of Sept. 11th on PATH and any discussions at this point are preliminary and subject to board approval," spokeswoman Kayla Bergeron said. The pricetag could reach $1.7 billion if the World Trade Center station, once the busiest on the line, cannot be reopened. That remains uncertain because water and debris have permitted only limited forays into the station, located 70 feet below the street. The agency has reports some parts appear untouched while other sections are damaged.  Three of the seven cars of an empty train left behind on Sept. 11 were crushed by debris that fell into the station from the South Tower toppling above. The train's four other cars are undamaged. 

Also unresolved is whether the integrity of the three-foot foundation that encompasses the station and the rest of the Trade Center's basement has been compromised by the fallen steel. The eight-block foundation also keeps out ground water from an area where the Hudson River once flowed, and its soundness is also crucial to nearby buildings. 

In addition to construction, the timetable is based on a year's worth of work to remove debris from the buildings that collapsed after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11. 

If the station cannot be salvaged, the price would rise under a concept that calls for reopening Hudson Terminal, which was replaced by the World Trade Center station in 1971. 

Located close to Church Street about a half-block east from the Trade Center station, the space remains intact. Overhead once stood the twin 22-story buildings, built in 1900 by the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad, which became PATH in 1962.  The old station's main asset is its loop of tracks that would again enable incoming trains to use the southernmost tube beneath the Hudson River and New Jersey-bound trains to travel through the northernmost tube. 

The lack of a loop has been deemed a critical drawback to a suggestion for a stop to be opened at the World Financial Center, just west of the Trade Center site, because incoming trains would have to be backed out to Jersey City before others could pull in.


© 2001 The Star-Ledger

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