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PATH ready to roll into WTC hub
Temporary station will reopen Sunday

Friday, November 21, 2003  BY RON MARSICO Star-Ledger Staff

NEW YORK--At the south end of the "E" subway line exit, adjacent to a still shuttered newsstand, light filters through nine surviving glass doors from the former World Trade Center site.

A dusty sign overhead reads "PATH Trains to New Jersey."

By the weekend, the doors will be reconditioned and the old sign will be cleaned. Nearby, new signs denoting the way to Newark, Journal Square and Hoboken will be visible.

On late Sunday morning, for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, a PATH train from New Jersey will pull into Lower Manhattan. The same eight PATH cars that were the last to leave the World Trade Center with passengers before the Twin Towers collapsed will pull into a temporary station at Ground Zero. Gov. James E. McGreevey, New York Gov. George Pataki and other dignitaries will be aboard the ceremonial train.

At 2 p.m., the line will reopen to the general public.

"The 9/11 terrorists altered a lot of lives," said Doug Klein, 41, an equities trader from West Caldwell who rode PATH to the World Trade Center for five years before getting a job in New Jersey after the attacks. "I just think the PATH train reopening is just getting back to a way of life that a lot of people were happy with and accustomed to. Having the PATH train made our lives a bit easier if you worked downtown."

Klein plans to take his wife and two children on Sunday to the temporary PATH station in Lower Manhattan -- the first public space to open where 2,752 people died.

Officials with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates PATH and owns the 16-acre Ground Zero site, consider completion of the $566 million project to restore rail service between Lower Manhattan and Jersey City a signature moment in the overall redevelopment efforts that are expected to last until 2015.

"It means a lot because of all the personnel losses that we had here," said Louis Menno, the project's program director for the Port Authority, which lost 84 people on 9/11. "We just want to restore it."

More than 65,000 commuters from New Jersey traveled the PATH daily to the original World Trade Center station before Sept. 11, 2001, but officials expect only 20,000 to 30,000 to resume riding immediately. The temporary station has a capacity of 50,000 daily riders.

Though it is temporary, efforts were made to give the primarily concrete and steel station a sense of place and some artistic touches.

Near the corner of Church and Vesey streets, at the northeast corner of the site, an enormous cantilevered, steel-truss canopy with suspended letters spelling out "World Trade Center PATH Station" greets passengers.

"The sense that you have when you're walking under it is that it's floating above you," said Robert Davidson, the Port Authority's chief architect. "The canopy was developed to be the first public landmark on the site."

Coming down the entrance stairs from street level, passengers will encounter the upper concourse before descending on the huge bank of nine new escalators, which are on the original foundations that survived the attack. On the station's mezzanine level, passengers will see various huge aerial photos of Lower Manhattan.

Davidson said the aim was to create "volumes of space that would make the public feel good when they arrive."

Turnstiles will accept PATH cards and subway MetroCards, the first time they can be used to ride PATH. Access to the A,C, E and the N, R, W subway lines is available from the station.

The platforms will accept eight-car trains, with the five tracks configured exactly as they were before the attack. State-of-the-art tracks without ties that offer a smoother ride and less maintenance have been installed on the four main tracks.

In deference to victims' family members, the views of Ground Zero's pit from the mezzanine and platform levels have been mostly covered with plastic sheeting and screens with inspirational quotes about the city.

But Anthony Gardner of Wayne, a member of the Coalition of 9/11 Families, took issue with the Port Authority's decision to call the station by its old World Trade Center name rather than designating it a memorial station as some families wish.

"We view that as an insult because the World Trade Center was destroyed on Sept. 11," said Gardner, who lost his brother, Harvey, in the attack.

Eventually, the temporary station will be molded into downtown's $1.7 billion futuristic transportation hub to be designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and slated to open in late 2006.

For Klein, the former PATH commuter, the milestone has stirred thoughts of a job transfer back across the Hudson.

"This is the first time I'm even entertaining working in Manhattan again," said Klein. "The PATH reopening will definitely have a lot to do with my decision. I just felt the commute to Midtown is much, much harder."

Ron Marsico covers the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan redevelopment. He may be reached at rmarsico@starledger.com or (973) 392-7860.

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