Bloomberg News

Rush to Open Sept. 11 Memorial Cost $500 Million, Agency Says

February 10, 2012

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Accelerating and redesigning World Trade Center projects so the Sept. 11 memorial could open by the 10th anniversary of the attacks cost about $500 million, a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commissioner said.

The mass-transit terminal and subsurface infrastructure had to be “resequenced and accelerated” to meet the 2011 deadline, Vice Chairman Scott Rechler said in an interview today. The cost of those two projects, part of the almost $15 billion redevelopment of the Lower Manhattan site, has risen by $977 million since November 2008, according to an audit released Feb. 7. A majority of that increase was due to the rush to complete the memorial garden, Rechler said.

The specifications for the transit hub, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, were only 70 percent complete when the project was bid, Rechler said. The decision to move ahead with incomplete plans was part of the “political and patriotic mission that was put in front of the Port Authority,” he said.

“At 70 percent complete, you know you’re going to have cost overruns,” he said. “This is one of the most complex construction jobs in the country, if not the world.”

Rechler and authority Chairman David Samson today spoke to reporters before a board meeting, two days after the release of the audit. Ordered by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in August, the financial review showed the entire project could cost as much as $14.8 billion, up from $11 billion estimated in 2008.

‘Challenged and Dysfunctional’

The audit called the agency, which oversees the metropolitan area’s airports, shipping terminals and interstate bridges and tunnels, “a challenged and dysfunctional organization” with $19.5 billion in debt and growing.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday said not opening the memorial by the anniversary would have been an “embarrassment around the world,” and that “the Port Authority had to deliver.”

Most of the increase to $14.8 billion isn’t due to cost overruns, Samson said. The reason is that the authority took on jobs, including the memorial and subway and security improvements that are supposed to be paid for by third parties, including the city, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation. The net cost to the authority rose by $1.7 billion to about $7.7 billion, the report said.

That $1.7 billion increase includes $537 million for the transit hub and $440 million for the infrastructure, the audit said.

The cost of 1 World Trade Center, the 1,776-foot tower slated for completion next year, was estimated in the audit to cost $3.9 billion, a 27 percent jump from the $3.1 billion estimate the authority made in 2008. Some of that is because the earlier projection didn’t include leasing commission and tenant fit-out costs, the commissioners said.

--Editor: Mark Schoifet, Mark Tannenbaum

To contact the reporter on this story: David M. Levitt in New York at dlevitt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Taub at dtaub@bloomberg.net; Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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