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World Trade Center project faces more delays, higher costs

Times Staff Writer

The controversial rebuilding at the World Trade Center site will be costlier and even further delayed than projected, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in a report released Monday.

“The schedule and cost estimates of the rebuilding effort that have been communicated to the public are not realistic,” wrote Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority, which owns the site and is responsible for the biggest projects on it.

Ward noted that “15 fundamental issues critical to the overall project had not yet been resolved,” among them the final design of the World Trade Center transportation hub. “Indeed, it is time that the design of that complex project be made to conform to real budget and schedule expectations, which will require tough decisions that have not been candidly addressed up to now.”

The report was the first public analysis by a government agency to acknowledge the seriousness of the delays and cost overruns, but it did not set new timelines or projections of costs.

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Other studies have suggested that construction could not be completed on time but have largely been kept secret by officials.

“They’ve been running behind from the beginning,” said Robert Beauregard, a professor and director of the urban planning program at Columbia University. “There was a lot of confusion about who was in charge and how to go about it.”

Beauregard said that although the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were “a terrible, destructive tragedy,” the project had “lost that sense. It’s become a commercial real estate project that just happens to have a memorial. And you don’t hear any more about the memorial in New York. It’s a mega-project, but just one of the city’s many mega-projects.”

The report recommended the creation of a governing board comprising all involved parties to revise the budget and timetable. To get back on track, the report said, “will involve tough choices.”

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Plans for the site in Lower Manhattan, where more than 2,600 people were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, include the Freedom Tower, an office tower designed by Daniel Libeskind. The building, now under construction, has been sharply criticized by architecture critics and embroiled in disputes between government officials and Larry Silverstein, the developer who held the lease on the World Trade Center.

The report said the construction of the Freedom Tower would be delayed beyond its planned 2012 completion date, but did not say how long or estimate how much more it would cost.

And during a meeting Monday of the authority’s board of commissioners, it became clear that the planned National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum would not be finished in time for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2011.

The authors of the report wrote that “the first basic questions that came to mind -- ones we know are on the minds of all Americans -- were: ‘How did we get to where we are today?’ and ‘How could those original dates and costs have been so off?’ ”

Rebuilding on the site involves more than 100 construction contractors and subcontractors; 33 designers, architects and consulting firms; 19 public agencies; and two private developers.

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louise.roug@latimes.com


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