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.