January 23, 2002
Transit Plan Would Connect Dots Downtown
By RANDY KENNEDY
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has put the finishing touches on an ambitious blueprint for rebuilding the crumbled transit network beneath Lower
Manhattan, proposing to unite a tangle of unlinked train lines with a huge underground
pedestrian concourse and moving sidewalks.
The agency's architects, who will begin showing the plan to city and state officials and
developers over the next few weeks, stress that it could change substantially before the first
shovel goes into the ground. But the plan, which could cost $2 billion to $3 billion, represents
the culmination of months of thinking by transportation experts, who were given the rare
chance to envision not simply repairing transit lines but remaking them in a part of the city
where they have been the most crucial and made the least sense. "I think it's important for us at this time to look at all possibilities," said Charles A. Gargano,
vice chairman of the Port Authority, which owns the biggest portion of the land included in
the plan and will be responsible for paying for most of it. "It would be very foolhardy to miss
an opportunity like this to try to improve on what we've been given down there."
What the city had before Sept. 11, as any subway rider knows, was a transit hodgepodge, an
accumulation of decades of independent planning by competing subway companies and other
train lines that meant sometimes seven overlapping subway lines and the PATH system,
none of which converged in a coherent way. The Port Authority's plan, which would take four to five years to build, would strike a
compromise between rebuilding the system as it was and completely redrawing the
downtown transit map.
Instead of digging very expensive and complicated new train tunnels to unite lines, the plan
would create a straight underground passageway at least 50 feet wide and about 2,500 feet
long, with moving walkways and possibly shops and stores. It would begin at the World
Financial Center, run beneath West Street and continue east along Dey Street all the way to
Broadway, bisecting several transit lines. Large banks of escalators would allow people to go
up or down to stations or the street.
Under the plan, the PATH line, which terminated roughly beneath the World Trade Center
plaza, would be extended a few hundred feet farther east to Church Street, where the shell
of the old Manhattan and Hudson station, closed in 1971, still sits beneath the street.
That shell would be lengthened to accommodate 10-car PATH trains and a large underground
terminal — described by Mr. Gargano as a "kind of downtown Grand Central" — would be
built around it under Church Street. (An alternate, less ambitious plan, would be to
completely rebuild the PATH station in its old location and create a smaller terminal there,
also connected to the walkway.)
Farther east, near the intersection of Dey and Broadway, a new subway terminal, which the
plan calls a "future transit center," would be built by the Metropolitan Transportation
Authority, whose officials and engineers have been working with the Port Authority over the
last few months. The transit center would provide better entrances to the subway and
enlarge the mazelike Fulton Street subway complex, where the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, M and Z
One important element of the plan, officials said, is that it would connect the World Financial
Center and Battery Park City — and ferry passengers who are expected to disembark in
much larger numbers nearby in the coming years — to the subway, PATH and the rest of
Lower Manhattan in a better way than pedestrian bridges once did. It would also funnel a substantial number of pedestrians off crowded downtown streets and
underground. And once there, people could hop on moving sidewalks — probably larger
versions of the ones now common in airports — to get to transit connections faster. Before
the terrorist attack, about 66,000 people a day used the World Trade Center station on the
PATH and tens of thousands more used the subways.
Certain elements of the proposal were first reported in The Daily News.
Anthony G. Cracchiolo, the director of priority capital programs for the Port Authority, said
officials had questioned whether there was a need to add to subway lines. "Is that the most
efficient way? People are going to have to wait for trains, but they can get on and off moving
walkways whenever and wherever they want."
The plan is also very attractive to Port Authority planners because it is largely contained
underground, allowing transportation work to begin without waiting for commercial and
residential decisions to be made above ground. Planners said that entrances, known as head
houses, could be built to the walkway and subway stations; the entrances could later be
incorporated into more elaborate street-level terminals or new buildings. The plan has been presented in its broad outline to Gov. George E. Pataki of New York and
Gov. James E. McGreevey of New Jersey and was shown in detail yesterday to the Port
Authority's executive director, Joseph J. Seymour. Port Authority officials said it would soon
be shown to other parties involved in rebuilding Lower Manhattan, including Battery Park
City officials and Larry A. Silverstein, who holds the lease on the World Trade Center site.
Eventually, any plan would have to be approved by the Port Authority board, which is
controlled by the two governors, and parts of the plan would probably also have to be
approved by the M.T.A. board and the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation.
"Maybe everybody will love it," said Mr. Cracchiolo. "I'm not that big of an optimist, but
should that happen, we could begin working on it in very short order."
In the meantime, work has already begun on partial repairs to the existing PATH platforms
beneath the trade center and open them within two years as a temporary station, a $544
million plan that was approved by the Port Authority last month. Mr. Gargano said he was confident that money for the larger plan would be available through
a combination of insurance money, federal aid and a shuffling of the Port Authority's
five-year, $9.5 billion capital plan, possibly delaying some other projects. "Lower Manhattan
really must be our first priority now," he said. "No one is saying that it is not going to be
New York City Transit, after first considering a plan to reroute the 1 and 9 lines farther west
to better serve Battery Park City, found that that would be too costly. It now plans to rebuild
the line along its old route from Chambers Street to the South Ferry station and reopen it by
November. But under the Port Authority's plan, the pedestrian concourse would connect with a rebuilt
subway station beneath the trade center site that would replace the 1 and 9 Cortlandt Street
station, which was mostly destroyed on Sept. 11 and is to be demolished. The plan also envisions the M.T.A. making a more direct connection between the N and R
lines and C and E line platforms. Before Sept. 11, passengers wanting to transfer between
the two lines had to exit the subway system, walk through part of the mall complex beneath
the trade center, and re-enter at another station.
Port Authority planners say that while their plan will undoubtedly be subject to change as it
makes the rounds, they think it will serve as the foundation for all future downtown
transportation discussions, to be chipped away at or added to "As tragic as this was, it has created an opportunity for us to completely transform the way
transportation works in Lower Manhattan," said Mr. Cracchiolo. "That's the message we're
trying to get across."