The Port Authority’s Santiago Calatrava-designed PATH hub at the World Trade Center is becoming a transit boondoggle in the 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 billion — or 70 percent above initial costs — when all is said and done.
Shawn Boburg of The Bergen Record first reported on the increases today. The hub, once set to open in 2011, may not wrap until March 2015, making it three months behind the current schedule. Boburg has more:
The report warns that — even after the controversial February increase — the “budget still does not appear adequate for the ultimate completion of the project.” It adds: “Recent discussions with the Port Authority” indicate a $3.8 billion final price tag. The 2005 budget for the project was $2.2 billion…
Officials at the Port Authority, the bi-state agency in charge of the federally funded project, brushed aside the estimate. “We remain confident in our budget” of $3.4 billion, spokesman John Kelly said.
And an official at the Federal Transit Administration, which is paying a majority of the hub expenses, stressed that the authority could still hit its current spending target if it manages the project properly…An FTA official said the $3.8 billion estimate included a “risk” assessment and was not certain.
FTA officials tried to downplay the bad news. “In its financial oversight role, the FTA is obligated to identify and measure risk associated with the PATH Hub project,” Brian Farber, the FTA’s associate administrator for communications and congressional affairs, said. “Having identified those risks, we still believe that if the Port Authority properly manages them, the project could meet the projected $3.4 billion budget.”
As costs escalate, the Port Authority will be expected to shoulder more and more of the funding burden. As Boburg notes, the FTA will fork over around $2.9 billion for the hub, and the Port Authority will have to foot the bill for nearly $1 billion more. Considering how the hub is largely cosmetic and does not serve to increase cross-Hudson rail capacity, this investment is growing more and more foolhardy by the quarter, and it highlights how misplaced the region’s transit spending priorities are these days.