Agreement Near on Modestly Simplified Calatrava WTC Hub

With a report due in just one week that sets new timetables for the World Trade Center redevelopment, a decision is near on one of the most complex–and controversial–elements at the site, the multibillion dollar PATH hub.

The Santiago Calatrava-designed station has been a massive headache for officials and engineers since at least early 2007, when it became clear that the design was too costly given its $2.1 billion budget and could delay multiple other elements, including the memorial, at the interconnected site given the central placement of the station. In recent months, as the Port Authority has sought to bring in new timetables, a decision on what to do with the PATH station has been at the center of discussion.

Now, multiple parties seem near to an agreement on a plan pushed by the Port Authority, which would modestly simplify the Calatrava design, adding a few columns in the giant, open underground mezzanine, but keeping the structure relatively close to its original design, according to multiple people familiar with discussions.

Up until recent days, other parties involved in the steering committee formed to make decisions prior to the report’s issuance had resisted the Port Authority’s plan given the complication of the design. The city, the memorial foundation and Silverstein Properties had all been pushing for a much more scaled-back design that would have retained the Calatrava oculus structure but greatly simplified the below-grade part in the name of cost and timing.

The major concern for the memorial foundation and the city had been the dates: The Port Authority said just two weeks ago that a similar design to the one now favored would not have allowed the memorial plaza to be open to the public by the 10th anniversary of the attacks in 2011, and may not have been ready until some time in 2013.

Now, with some more simplifications, the Port Authority says it can deliver the memorial for the public by 2011, but other parties involved, including the city and the memorial foundation, want to install some sort of benchmarks that the agency must meet if it is to build the modestly simplified Calatrava hub design, too. The design is considered by engineers to be highly complex, and many involved in discussions have expressed concern that more delays will crop up given the difficult building process.

The Port Authority set up the steering committee–which contains representatives from the city, the governors of New York and New Jersey, site landlord Silverstein Properties, the memorial foundation and others–in order to make decisions on more than a dozen key issues. The steering committee met Thursday morning, but did not make a final endorsement of the Port Authority’s plan for the hub.

Agreement Near on Modestly Simplified Calatrava WTC Hub