Nothing screams bureaucracy quite like the Port Authority and the MTA trying to work together to build a ridiculously ornate transit hub in Lower Manhattan. And as we all could imagine, this project has not gone well. First, came the talk of fewer tunnel connectors than called for in the original plan.
Now comes the story we all expected: Cost overruns have led the Port Authority to order a re-engineering of the Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center hub. The Times reports:
Faced with construction cost estimates up to $1.2 billion over budget, the Port Authority said yesterday that it would re-engineer, but not fundamentally alter, the birdlike World Trade Center transportation hub designed by Santiago Calatrava.
The budget was set four years ago at $2.2 billion. The contractor for the project, Phoenix Constructors, now estimates that it will cost from $2.7 billion to $3.4 billion to build the hub, a greatly enlarged version of the current PATH terminal.
For the mathematically challenged among us, that’s an increase in cost of nearly 50 percent.
Now, considering the design of this hub favors form over functionality, I would think that all the parties involved would do their best to sacrifice the gigantic porcupine with a retractable roof (for baseball games, perhaps) in favor of a fully functional transportation hub designed at cost and for the people using the subway instead of for the architectural design boards.
Not so fast.
Calatrava told The Times that he wants to keep the design elements in place while finding others ways to cut costs. Anthony E. Shorris, head of the Port Authority, said the agency would work to trim aspects of the project that are “less visible” than the overall design.
This strikes me as typical bureaucratic foolishness. This transit hub is about bringing people in to Lower Manhattan in an efficient way. At the same time, I understand that those behind the WTC Memorial want to incorporate some aspects of the Sept. 11 memorial into the transit hub. But should we really do that at a cost of nearly $1.2 billion? And should we give up “less visible” parts of this project that may affect commuters and riders more than altering the aesthetic design would? That seems most illogical.