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Port Report Touches on Many Subjects

Port Report Touches on Many Subjects

Oct 14, 2008
By By: Julie Shapiro | Downtown Express | Downtown Express

PATH redesign

The Port Authority made many simplifications to Santiago Calatrava’s design for the PATH hub, netting $210 million in cost savings. But the Port didn’t go as far as they could have in simplifying the belowground mezzanine, which originally included 150-foot trusses so heavy that no crane in the United States would have been able to lift them, executive director Chris Ward said.

The Port did add several columns to Calatrava’s mezzanine design, eliminating the mammoth trusses, but the Port could have added more columns, further simplifying the design and making it easier and faster to construct. Silverstein Properties was reportedly advocating this simpler design with more columns, but the Port Authority decided against it because it would have taken up to eight months to redesign the hub. The compromise with several columns “got us out on the street building today,” Ward said.

Other changes to the train station centered and expanded the entrances to the No. 1 and R/W subway lines, making them easier to find.

9A ‘NIGHTMARE’

On Route 9A, the road the State Department of Transportation is rebuilding immediately west of the W.T.C. site, Lower Manhattan almost ended up with what Ward calls a “classic urban nightmare.” State D.O.T. was scheduled to complete its years-long Route 9A work in 2009, finally putting the pieces of the highway back together — and then the Port Authority was scheduled to rip it up again almost immediately to install belowground infrastructure.

Now, the Port Authority and State D.O.T. have agreed to keep parts of the roadbed open until after the Port is finished with underground work sometime after 2011, which will save six to 15 months on several projects.

D.O.T. has closed a half mile of the West Side bikeway — the most well-traveled in the country — and had been planning to reopen it in 2009, but now the path closure, which has not been enforced, may be extended an additional two years.

Silverstein silent

The deteriorating economy is leading to questions about whether developer Larry Silverstein will be able to build Towers 2, 3 and 4 and fill them with office tenants. Ward sounded circumspect about the office towers Tuesday, saying, “Let’s hope Mr. Silverstein is up and building,” by the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

“Everybody says, ‘Build in a down market,” Ward told reporters Tuesday, “but you don’t want to build in too much of a down market.”

Silverstein released a statement last week saying he would look at the Port Authority’s report to determine its impact on his projects, but this week he declined to comment.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told Downtown Express Wednesday that he is not worried about Silverstein, who has nearly filled his rebuilt 7 W.T.C. with tenants.

“The economy now hopefully will not be the economy four to five years from now when the leasing process [for Towers 2, 3 and 4] takes place,” Silver said.

Ward said he would not consider bringing another developer in to take over some of Silverstein’s buildings.

“Larry is our partner,” Ward said.

Greenwich St. speedup

Greenwich St. was one of the Port Authority,s top priorities in the report. By simplifying the supports for the No. 1 subway line — replacing “spaghetti-like” underpinnings with top-down construction — Greenwich St. can open several years early in 2012, Ward said. Pedestrians will use an incomplete Greenwich St. one year earlier to access the memorial on the 10th anniversary.

Cost predictions

Costs for the W.T.C. have risen, in no small part because of a sharp rise in demand for construction materials worldwide. The Port’s new budget estimates, perhaps with the economic turmoil in mind, predict that construction costs will only rise 3 percent a year over the next several years. If the Port underestimated that figure, the project could see more cost overruns. New York City’s construction costs rose 1 percent a month from 2004 to 2007, according to Ward’s report, which was more than four times faster than the rate the Port used in its projections.

Two sets of dates

The Port Authority report includes two sets of dates for each project: a target date and a probabilistic date. The target date assumes that the Port and its partners successfully manage the many risks the projects face. The probabilistic dates come from a computer simulation that “built” the project 10,000 times, randomly imagining combinations of best and worst-case scenarios and everything in between. The probabilistic dates are three to six months behind the target dates and are considered a bad case scenario.

 

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