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Old Posted May 21, 2009, 1:17 PM
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WTC may go $1.1B over budget: Report rips poor management of PA as costs spiral out of control

BY Douglas Feiden
May 21st 2009

New York's Big Boondoggle just got bigger.

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub is near-certain to bust its $3.2 billion budget - and there's a chance it will cost more than $4.3 billion to build, the Daily News has learned.

That's a spike of as much as $1.1 billion from the Port Authority's "clear-eyed" estimate of only eight months ago, a review of Hub costs obtained by The News under the Freedom of Information Act reveals.

The December report by the Federal Transit Administration says it's 90% certain the Port Authority will blow a June 2014 deadline for opening the Santiago Calatrava-designed megaterminal.

The FTA study also estimated there's a 50-50 chance the Hub could cost $3.8 billion, shattering its budget by $600 million - with no funding for the extra costs.

"Project costs significantly exceed available FTA and local funding," the 61-page consultant's study said.

The grim news comes as Mayor Bloomberg hosts a summit today at Gracie Mansion in a bid to mediate a ferocious war raging between the PA and developer Larry Silverstein over the future of the 16-acre site.

Ballooning costs at the Hub - and their impact on the rest of Ground Zero - will be a hot-button issue confronting Gov. Paterson, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at the parley.

The price tag is expected to keep soaring: Add in overall project costs, like the Hub's below-grade, octupuslike infrastructure, and the tab is 90% certain to exceed $4.4 billion, the FTA report estimates.

There's a 90% certainty that building the grandiose train hall and its infrastructure - largely to benefit New Jersey's PATH commuters - will cost three times the $1.5 billion spent for the original World Trade Center.

There's also a 10% chance that the so-called Grand Central Terminal of lower Manhattan will leap in cost to $5.4 billion.

The FTA ordered the risk review to examine the PA's Oct. 2 World Trade Center assessment report, which set new time lines and budgets and which the agency dubbed a "clear-eyed analysis" of site issues.

The FTA consultants, New York-based Jacobs Carter Burgess, faulted the PA for its performance and competence in the report, finding the project's management "has not been strong" with "poor project controls (largely due to lack of experienced project managers)."

Both the FTA and the PA minimized the risks documented in the report:

"We're confident that we've mitigated the risks. The bottom line is that the Hub is on schedule and on the budget that we announced in October," PA spokesman Stephen Sigmund said.

He said construction cost escalation was no longer a problem, and that key bid packages - like a $338 million contract for Hub steel - were coming in at or below PA estimates.

FTA officials said the project's $3.2 billion cost was "achievable" with risk-mitigation efforts.

Blown timetables have marred the project from the start. Its original completion date was 2006, then this year, then 2011 and now June 2014. The FTA's report now cites a 50-50 chance of a November 2014 opening and a possibility of a May 2015 debut.
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