Home Asides PATH’s WTC transit hub costs now at $3.44 billion

PATH’s WTC transit hub costs now at $3.44 billion

by Benjamin Kabak

If any transit project in Manhattan deserves to be labeled a boondoggle, it is the never-ending one with the ever-increasing budget at the World Trade Center. As The Times reports today, the price on Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center PATH hub has now reached $3.44 billion, thanks to a sharp increase in the cost of the steel framework supporting the ostentatious hub. This new price represents, says Michael Grynbaum, “a 5.5 percent increase from the agency’s last estimate of $3.26 billion, issued in 2008.” Interestingly, though, this cost is in line with an estimate issued by the contractor in 2004, and the Port Authority, who described the total then as “simply unacceptable,” eliminated the retractable roof in response. So much for that.

When all is said and done, the Port Authority expects grand things for this PATH hub. It will be, as The Times notes, the third-largest transportation hub in the city with an estimated 250,000 people passing through each day, and the space will feature 500,000 square feet of retail. Yet, as the costs have spiked by $1.2 billion since the project was first proposed in 2002, I have to wonder if the Port Authority is spending altogether too much on a glorified PATH/subway station. The $3.44 billion certainly could have been used on projects that would have actually improved transportation into and out of the city.

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Pete February 25, 2011 - 12:08 pm

It does seem like a waste of money when its all just for PATH. Station Expansions for many of the subway lines downtown will come with that money and it is going to unify all of downtown with the Fulton St project. We got the money into the system, thats all that matters for now. If we can only get the money to secure the 2nd avenue line now.

This is off topic question, but I could find an answer anywhere:
I recently started looking into the path and I noticed that it curves back into the hudson. Is the PATH tunnel into downtown manhatten a 1 track tunnel or 2?

It seems like an aweful waste of space if it was 2. Did they dig 2 tunnels under the hudson with 1 track?


I was looking at this map and current Downtown restoration plans and I was wondering why it didnt just keep up going into manhatten and have another line.

The curve sort of reminds me of the South Ferry Terminal Curve.

Bolwerk February 25, 2011 - 2:12 pm

PATH could probably be extended somewhere useful for $3.44B. Downtown Brooklyn maybe?

al February 25, 2011 - 6:26 pm

With a route run distance of 3 miles from WTC to Atlantic Terminal, $3.4 billion should be feasible.

Bolwerk February 25, 2011 - 7:14 pm

The way our construction industry behaves, we’d be lucky to get a stub end service under the East River for that. 😐

Kid Twist February 25, 2011 - 2:41 pm

One tube in each direction. The tunnels separate as they approach Manhattan, and trains loop back to Jersey City. Except unlike single-track South Ferry loop, the loop through the World Trade Center has five tracks.

Chris A. February 25, 2011 - 12:36 pm

One track each way, if I remember right….

But I think the PA should have left well enough alone with the current PATH station at WTC – it’s functional and practical. The monies now being spent on the fancy station would have been better spent on adding more Cross Hudson rail capacity – either as the ARC tunnels, a #7 line extension to Jersey, or as another set of PATH tubes from NJ coupled with a direct cross-town link to the East side of Manhattan….

Every dollar spent on “fancy” instead of “Practical” is a waste. Public works projects are notorious for being way over budget – and the bulk of it may be very poor project management, stemming from the nature of the political process. (Politicians want the credit from projects started in their administrations…. They rarely are long term thinkers.)


Andrew February 27, 2011 - 6:50 pm

I agree with your basic point, but the current temporary PATH terminal is not very practical – it’s (relatively) convenient for people going to the World Financial Center, but for anyone going to the Wall Street area or transferring to any of the subway lines, it’s quite inconvenient.

Christopher February 25, 2011 - 1:54 pm

I guess my tendency to think that practical and functional is nice, but damn isn’t wonderful to have inspiring architecture every now and then? Build Grand Central today and the thing would be value engineered to death for “just a regional hub.”

John Paul N. February 25, 2011 - 3:46 pm

True, and Grand Central also had the personal investment of Cornelius Vanderbilt, which would never happen now on a large scale, and if so, only through corporations.

John Paul N. February 25, 2011 - 3:53 pm

Actually, I take that back. Vanderbilt passed away before the current GCT building was built, but he did secure the land for the terminal. I do know that August Belmont put his personal investment into the IRT, and that is what I was really thinking of.

Jerrold February 25, 2011 - 5:20 pm

And ALSO the personal involvement many years later of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who had a lot to do with saving it from the same fate as the old Penn Station.

AK February 26, 2011 - 6:53 pm


Henry February 25, 2011 - 2:23 pm

Is this thing still being built? I assumed the project was dead because no one had actually started work on it (I go to work right across from the Freedom- I mean, One World Trade Center)

The PA should stop building this – its mission statement is to provide regional connectivity, not to build a shopping mall with a subway station that looks pretty. This money would’ve been better used on the ARC.

And where is the 250K passengers a day measurement coming from? If you multiply 250K by 365, you get around 91 million passengers: more than the total ridership for PATH. I highly doubt these figures are realistic.

SEAN February 25, 2011 - 2:32 pm

Minus 110 days for weekends & holidays = 63,750,000 passengers

BoerumHillScott February 25, 2011 - 3:06 pm

I think the numbers include anyone who walks across the transit center area for any reason.

Jerrold February 25, 2011 - 5:27 pm

Henry, are you SURE that the construction of the Calatrava Center has not begun?
Maybe they are still working on the underground part of it.

BUZZ February 28, 2011 - 9:04 am

Exactly. Anyone who actually take the PATH at WTC would know that there is construction going on. It just hasn’t gotten to the point that we can see it above ground yet.

AlexB February 25, 2011 - 2:53 pm

If the LIRR to the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn is ever extended to Lower Manhattan, wouldn’t they use this as their station as well? If that happens, I think it makes the size much more justifiable.

Pete February 25, 2011 - 2:59 pm

Does that idea have any chance of making a comeback? East Side Access is almost done.

Bolwerk February 25, 2011 - 3:04 pm

PATH to the Atlantic Terminal (or beyond) would probably be more practical. But ideas like the LIRR to downtown have more to do with subsidizing suburban commuters than making smart transportation choices for NYC. Heck, that’s exactly why we have East Side Access instead phase 2 of the SAS funded.

BoerumHillScott February 25, 2011 - 3:14 pm

Half of those options would have had a terminal very deep under Church street that would have connected to the transit center.
The others would have used existing subway stations, or built a new terminal elsewhere in downtown.

On a side note, all of the plans would have skipped the current Atlantic Terminal and built a new station near Atlantic/Flatbush in Brooklyn. None of the planned options on the Brooklyn side are possible anymore, because they all assumed they would be able to make some use of the former rail yards where Barclay’s Center is not being constructed.

Jerrold February 25, 2011 - 5:23 pm

Maybe wishful thinking?
Obviously you meant “…….Barclay’s Center is NOW being constructed.”

BoerumHillScott February 25, 2011 - 5:25 pm

Oops, I need to proofread better.
I see the construction every day, so I am pretty sure it is being built.

Alon Levy February 25, 2011 - 3:27 pm

I thought the plan was to extend the LIRR to Fulton Street, which would be a very good idea if they also raised frequencies at the urban stations; it would be an effective relief line to the E.

The ideal choice is to extend not just to Fulton but also to Jersey City or Hoboken and thence connect to the Erie lines and the West Shore Line, but this would require more interstate cooperation than anyone is willing to tolerate, especially when Christie is in the picture.

Bolwerk February 25, 2011 - 3:55 pm

I don’t think “the plan” ever matured past getting the LIRR downtown, maybe to Fulton or the PATH terminal, preferably with some kind of airport connection either by LIRR or AirTrain over LIRR trackage.

The E probably needs relief between 42nd and somewhere in Queens, not between Fulton and 34th. And the Atlantic Avenue Line and E barely touch each other, so I don’t see why it would help much.

Alon Levy February 25, 2011 - 4:08 pm

The E is super-crowded from the start, in Jamaica – the buses converge at Jamaica Center or Jamaica Station.

On the other hand, thinking about it again, in Jamaica the E is not more frequent than the J+Z, and gets to Chambers in 6 more minutes. So that might not be relief as much as just making things easier for people in Laurelton and Queens Village.

Bolwerk February 25, 2011 - 7:13 pm

That makes sense, but same difference. The J/Z probably gives you a good sense of the demand from Jamaica to Chambers – not very high. Although, for some people, that six minutes would probably be erased by the distance to where in the vicinity of Chambers they’re going. It’s possibly already a 6m walk from the J/Z to the WTC. Relieving the E probably calls for new ways to Midtown.

IIRC, I read somewhere that the Jamaica line getting linked to the E made the E more crowded. People actually “reverse commuted” to the E by way of the J to get it to Midtown. They probably aren’t good substitutes for each other.

(So this got me wondering what would happen today if the J followed the M’s route uptown via 6th, and the M went downtown instead? This was tried once and didn’t prove popular.)

Andrew February 27, 2011 - 6:53 pm

The E is crowded from Jamaica to West Midtown (probably 34th). It’s super-crowded from Jackson Heights to 53rd and Lex. It’s also crowded in the opposite direction from 34th to Lex. The south end of the line isn’t in need of relief.

Alon Levy February 28, 2011 - 1:26 am

People might be riding to the south end through the crowded segment in the east. The J/Z is a little faster, but not by a lot, and there could still be some pro-E bias. (Without looking it up, I’d have guessed the E is faster.)

Jonathan February 25, 2011 - 3:28 pm

I wish there was more momentum to extend the PATH from Newark Penn to Newark Airport. It would be nice if there was a 1-seat ride from Lower Manhattan to an airport (unless you count the A-train to Howard Beach). The PATH’s tail tracks already extend a bit beyond Newark Penn and it doesn’t seem like a tremendous project to go all the way to the AirTrain station, using Amtrak/NJT right-of-way.
If this existed, I think it would add to the ridership figures for the WTC hub.

John-2 February 25, 2011 - 3:34 pm

The problem with the PATH at the WTC to anywhere but back to New Jersey is the multiple levels of subway tunnels in-between — both the IND A/C and BMT N/R at Church between Fulton and Vescey to begin with, and then the other lines at Broadway, Nassau and William streets. It would make trying to thread a Penn Station-Grand Central commuter rail tunnel through the subways at Park Avenue and 42nd Street a snap by comparison.

As far as the price of the terminal, throw in the cost of the Fulton transit hub for the A/C/4/5/J/2/3 trains with the new PATH complex, and you’re already on the wrong side of $4 billion on both projects. But for the politicians, the key thing is both projects are above ground, where they can be seen by the voters. Creating far less elaborate projects and putting about two-third of that money into underground infrastructure would have made far more sense, but most of that you can’t see, or you can’t put a plaque with a bunch of names on near the main entrance, so style takes precedence over substance when it comes to where the money’s spent.

John Paul N. February 25, 2011 - 4:15 pm

Politicians want their eggs in one basket. They will feel like they will be unmemorable if the eggs are spread out or if they aren’t completed within their term. As long as politicians drive the funding, and societal norms support it, there is nothing to suggest this attitude will change.

John Paul N. February 25, 2011 - 4:03 pm

Once these hubs are built, all will be forgiven by commuters. Until the next proposal for another hub or a replacement. If Port Authority Bus Terminal will need to be rebuilt 10, 50, 100 years from now, I can only hope costs are lower then.

David Brown February 25, 2011 - 5:55 pm

This “Taj Majal” of a station, is exactly the kind of waste that we simply cannot afford, and is perfect political cover for Gov. Chris Christie’s decision not to build the Hudson River tunnel (He knows damm well, it would a money pit). Locally speaking, we have major eyesores that need total renovation in the subway system, and do not have to travel to Seneca Ave to find them (The Chambers St J & Z Station, one stop from there, comes to mind). Until stuff like shrinking the level of goverment approval process begins, and we put an end to starting NEW projects they know wil be excessively expensive to complete (Such as this one), inane procurement rules, Davis-Bacon wage requirements, featherbedding and NIMBY’s, things will not improve (We will have worse service, higher taxes or both). Perhaps if the City would be willing to kick in the money, to fix up the Chambers St Station, an important economic, and symbolic message would be sent……….. We are putting our money where our mouths are, and we are getting our house in order (Starting with home base). Then people might be more receptive to fare increases, congestion pricing & temporary station closures, and Albany might be more willing to help financially. Until those things start to occur, things will not change.

Jerrold February 25, 2011 - 7:24 pm


Can you say anything about that matter of the Calatrava Center maybe not having been started yet?
Isn’t it ALREADY under construction, at least the underground parts of it?

Benjamin Kabak February 25, 2011 - 7:33 pm

It’s well under way. I’m not sure how the rumor got started that nothing’s happened there.

Jerrold February 26, 2011 - 7:41 pm

The rumor on this page got started when somebody said that he works nearby, and that he had not seen any sign of actual construction going on.

peter February 25, 2011 - 8:35 pm

I have to agree with Christopher – although a functionally equivalent station clearly could have been built at this location for far less than $3.44 billion, it is deeply satisfying to get a piece of beautiful architecture in a day and age when most public infrastructure projects are nickel and dimed into aesthetic mediocrity. This station has the potential to become a city landmark – that’s something that has an enduring value beyond the cold calculation of how well it funnels commuters in and out of the PATH train.

Also, let’s no kid ourselves into thinking that the money that’s being spent here could have been diverted to other worthy transit projects. The only reason $3.44 billion is being spent here is because it’s Ground Zero. In practical terms, the region would have benefited from ARC vastly more than it will from Calatrava’s trophy train station, but the emotional and symbolic significance of 9/11 is such that spending billions at Ground Zero is the easier sell politically.

Alon Levy February 26, 2011 - 4:49 am

There are very good places in the city to view art, and others for natural vistas. I don’t need a $3.44 billion monument to Calatrava’s ego to see something beautiful.

Chris A. February 26, 2011 - 9:32 am

Sadly, an impressive edifice at Ground Zero is a much easier sell than more worthy transportation projects. We’ve turned 3,000 dead people into martyrs (people who choose to die for a cause) from murder victims (who didn’t choose to die). And we’ve turned them into a political excuse to do stupid things – which I doubt, if they had lived, would have approved of. (But it’s not politically correct to utter such things in public these days.)

Do we need a fancy transit hub in lower Manhattan? No. But we did need more rational transport options in lower Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn, both East and West sides of Manhattan, and in Jersey – to get to Manhattan. I’d gladly trade the fancy transit hub for new tunnels connecting Jersey to Manhattan. I’d gladly trade this hub for a completed 2nd ave line, from 125st to Hannover Square. I’d gladly trade the fancy hub for better West Side access – I could see the #7 line extended downtown, helping to bleed traffic off of the Lexington ave. lines…..

Sadly, what makes sense to the Straphanger does not make sense to politicians….


David Brown February 25, 2011 - 9:35 pm

Peter’s quote ” is deeply satisfying to get a piece of beautiful architecture in a day and age when most public infrastructure projects are nickel and dimed into aesthetic mediocrity. This station has the potential to become a city landmark – that’s something that has an enduring value beyond the cold calculation of how well it funnels commuters in and out of the PATH train”. Is elitism at its worst (Particularly the term “aesthetic mediocrity” That term has clueless, elitist liberal written all over it). I simply do not think it will be a project that people will love, and lots more will regret: (See the 96th St Subway Station, Citi Field & the incoming Barclays Center as examples of this). While I admit to being the kind of guy who would prefer an Islander Game to Lincoln Center, I bet most people would agree with me.
The clowns who came up this project knew how expensive it would be, but did not give a damm about the average taxpayer, and even worse, they want an extra $180m, with gas prices over $4.00, and an unemployment rate of 8.3% (Which will be getting higher after 6,000 teachers get terminated). The sad thing is they will get it, because they know the Port Authority & the politicians want people to forget about what a mistake this entire project was, instead of hearing “The Municipal Art Society”, and others of a similiar nature, spending the next 30 years, complaining it was not finished correctly.

BBnet3000 February 26, 2011 - 11:38 am

While I agree that this particular piece of architecture was not necessary, I hardly think that its some form of elitism to think that we should have architecturally distinctive transit structures in this day and age. Lots of other countries do.

That said, Moynihan also seems like a desperate attempt to resurrect the old Penn Station, while not really improving functionality at all. The current Penn station is fine, and despite all the “hole in the ground” talk, I suspect that a lot of people have a fondness for the current LIRR concourse. I know I do. Its functional, and while we shouldnt have destroyed the old one (and shouldnt destroy GCT), theres no need to spend money on replacing it right now, when we truly need to extend access in other parts of the city. Vast part of the outer boroughs need BRT service, they have the longest commutes in the country. Triborough RX should be on the table as well.

Bolwerk February 28, 2011 - 1:01 am

I’m not clear on the financing, but Willet’s Point is apparently getting a $3B makeover for the sake of “economic development.”

Looks to me like it’s not that we can’t afford the SAS; our city fathers would rather build a new car-centric neighborhood!

lawhawk March 1, 2011 - 11:48 am

As a regular PATH rider who works in the shadow of Ground Zero, I can tell you that the Calatrava transit hub is well under construction and has been for several years now. The concourses between the WFC and the PATH tracks have been built – they run adjacent to the Freedom Tower (1WTC) and a similar passage on Dey Street between the Fulton Station and PATH has been built.

The Calatrava design has been refined and cost containment strategies were incorporated, including changing truss designs to save money, but the costs have risen nonetheless.

For the PANY complaints about rising costs, perhaps someone ought to investigate why the PANY didn’t build a 3-track temporary track set up initially (when commuter usage was less), and then build the new station accordingly. Instead, the temporary PATH station was built as a 5-track/3 platform setup, but only 3 tracks and 2 platforms are usable because of the ongoing construction – and the platforms are severely constricted because of the construction of the transit hub and the new truss/structural elements being erected.

The design, construction, demolition, and reconstruction of the temporary station was not without costs.

Also, for those keeping count, this is the second iteration of the temporary PATH station. The first station opened up to Church, but the current version was opened when the original location needed to be demolished to make way for excavations along Church (2-3-4 WTC).

Calatrava’s WTC hub costs may hit $3.8 billion :: Second Ave. Sagas April 26, 2011 - 11:38 am

[…] fullest sense of the phrase. Once projected to cost just $2.2 billion, the ornate station saw costs jump to $3.44 billion in February, and now, federal officials monitoring the project believe the hub could cost as much as $3.8 […]


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