Port Authority on Schedule with
Restoration of PATH Service
Before September 11, 2001 67,000 people a day used the PATH
station under the World Trade Center, about 16,000 used it
to travel between Jersey City and downtown Manhattan.
When the Twin Towers collapsed they crushed both the Cortlandt
Street No. 1 No. 9 IRT subway and the PATH stations below.
While the passengers in the one train that was in the station
escaped before the buildings came down, a major transportation
artery between New Jersey and New was severed.
"We lost the downtown station along with the World Trade
Center," said Lou Menno, program director with the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates
the PATH system that runs from various points in New Jersey
to Manhattan. Menno is now overseeing its reconstruction for
"The PATH tunnels between downtown and Exchange Place
in Jersey City were flooded by broken water and sewer lines
and by the enormous amounts of water used to put out the fire
and the smoke. The water destroyed all the infrastructure
within the tunnels beyond repair," he said.
The water backed up all the way to the platform level at Exchange
Place, the station in Jersey City. "To protect the rest
of the system should, God forbid, the slurry wall (at the
WTC site) give way, we installed concrete plugs at the east
end of the station," said Menno.
The tunnels remained flooded for 40 days and 40 nights.
On December 13, 2001, the PA's board authorized $544 million
to reconstruct the PATH station and tunnels - $300 million
was for hard construction, the rest going for design, engineering
and other costs.
"We knew what had to be done - at Exchange Place, in
the tubes and at the World Trade Center site - we just didn't
know all the details. So we came up with a dollar amount that
we thought would cover all three." recalled Tom Groark,
engineer of construction for the PATH lines. "We explained
to contractors our understanding of the scope of the job and
asked them to team up."
At the end of January 2002, the contract was awarded to a
tri-venture consisting of Yonkers Contracting Co. Inc., Tully
Construction Co. Inc. and A.J. Pegno Construction Co., with
Yonkers functioning as the managing partner.
"When the Port Authority decided to go ahead with this
project, because of the nature of the disaster and the international
profile of the job, they wanted to insure that the best-qualified
contractors were involved in the process," said John
Kolaya, executive vice president with Yonkers. "It was
their idea to pre-qualify a select number of heavy construction
contractors in the New York City area.
"When you're looking at a project this massive, it's
very difficult for any one contractor to mobilize the resources
- the management, the workers, the subcontractors - by themselves.
It takes an awful lot of firepower from your other operations
to be able to do something like this. So the individual contractors
who were pre-qualified gravitated toward teams. Two teams
were ultimately formed."
Yonkers and Tully had a long history of working together.
Most recently Yonkers worked as a subcontractor on Tully's
sector of the World Trade Center site, supplying ironworkers
to cut the down the twisted steel. Tully, at the time the
contract was bid, was working with Pegno on the reconstruction
of the No. 1 and No. 9 subway station. So the team made sense
to all involved. Kolaya noted that both of the teams that
formed were eminently qualified. At that point, it came down
When the project started, no one knew exactly what they had
gotten themselves into.
"We brought in the design and management group and began
figuring out what had to be removed, what could be rehabilitated
and what needed to be totally rebuilt," said Groark.
"We created the plan as we went along."
"When you start with a completion date, but you don't
have any plans, you have a real job on your hands," said
Kolaya with a chuckle. "There was no prep time whatsoever;
we had to start building immediately. In a typical design-build
project there is usually about a year of design time that
proceeds significant portions of the construction. Here we
had to start work right away with just concepts and preliminary
What made it possible, said James Strobel, project manager
for the tri-venture, was the willingness of the Port Authority
to do away with traditional formalities, make quick decisions
and get into the trenches with the contractors. A tangible
sign of this commitment is fact that the PA's staff assigned
to the project have taken offices in the same building as
the tri-venture-115 Broadway, on the southeast corner of Ground
"Everybody involved in this really wants to be here,"
said Strobel. "Everybody feels part of the team, not
just those in the tri-venture, but all the subcontractors
and the Port Authority people-their construction management
people, their design people, their consultants.
"The Port Authority is right here in the same building
with us. If we have a problem, we run right upstairs, bang
on the engineer's door and say, 'We've got a problem, let's
solve it.' There's no time for letters, there's no time for
formalities. They know the importance of the job and they
want to get it done as quickly as is physically possible.
The attitude around here is, 'Let's just make it happen.'"
The Right Tool for the Right Job
When the contract was awarded, the cleanup of Ground Zero
was still underway and there was no way to reach the PATH
station beneath it. So work began by removing the plugs at
There had been talk for sometime of finding a way to connect
the five PATH tunnels that run under Exchange Place, so that
trains could change direction there. There was also a need
to extend the platforms. The PATH now uses eight-car trains,
but the platforms at Exchange Place could only accommodate
seven. Before 9/11, the tentative plan had been to extend
them by moving west into the river. With the station closed,
it was not only safer, but also easier and cheaper, to extend
the platforms to the west.
The building of the connecting tunnel began with the typical
drill-blast method. But progress was painfully slow, both
because of restrictions imposed by buildings above the station
and because of the subtlety needed to connect five existing
"This was not the typical case where drilling and blasting
could knock it out without any thought," said Kolaya.
"We found that there were angles and shapes and shaves
an undercuts and overcuts, all kinds of geometry that didn't
lend itself to drilling a bunch of holes and shooting it."
When it became obvious that the deadline would not be met
using the drill-blast method, Jim Brady of the BU Corp., the
project's tunnel consultant, suggested trying a roadheader,
a machine used in coal mines. Roadheaders look like mechanical
monsters with nub-like picks on their cutterheads that bite
into rock, crush and pulverize it. The machines are equipped
with gathering arms that collect the rock debris (called "spoil")
and places it on a conveyer in the machine's center, which
brings the spoil to a loading boom at the rear. From there
it is collected and can be transported out of the tunnel.
"The first machines we brought in (from West Virginia)
weren't large enough; they barely gave us the production we
were getting out of the drill and blast," said Strobel.
However, larger roadheaders, so big that they had be dismantled
to fit into the existing tunnel and reassembled for the actual
work, did the trick. "Eventually, when we got the right
equipment down there, it quadrupled our production and allowed
us to finish on schedule," he added.
"In that situation we had to stop on a dime and change
our whole course, and the Port Authority was there with us
100 percent of the time," said Kolaya. "When we
had to get a roadheader in, they'd stop their PATH operations,
make available their work trains and their engine, and we'd
get that roadheader in. They always treated this job as their
number one priority. This is not a hard money job; we're all
looking for end results."
In April 2003, the heavy construction was complete and the
first test train was successfully brought in and out of Exchange
Place. The station reopened for passenger traffic to Newark
on June 29.
In the Muck
As they were rebuilding Exchange Place, the tri-venture was
also advancing into the tunnels from the Jersey side.
"The shell of the tunnel was in good shape," reported
Groark. "The Port Authority has checked them regularly
for decades, so that wasn't a surprise. The tunnels were not
structurally impacted by the attack, it was just the water
that caused the damage."
Virtually everything in the tunnels had to be removed. "The
tunnels were completely stripped of all the existing tracks,
ballast, and ties," said Strobel. "We pulled out
all the existing mechanical lines, the compressed air lines,
fire lines, all the electrical utilities, all the signal cables
In the original design, the running rail was fastened to evenly
spaced wooden cross ties that were embedded in a layer of
stone gravel for stability. The reconstruction brings the
tracks into the 21st Century. For the first time in the PATH
system, direct fixation fasteners were used. The fasteners
consist of a series of direct steel baseplates equipped with
a rail seat and baseplate pad, side insulators, rail chips
and threaded anchor bolts that are attached at even intervals
to the rail and then bolted to a new concrete track bed. This
approach eliminates the need for wooden cross ties or a ballast
"The advantage of the direct fixation rail bed is that
it doesn't shift," explained Menno. "You don't have
to do realignment. It decreases the amount of maintenance
and it provides a smoother ride."
The old terra cotta clay duct banks were hauled out and all
new conduit was installed. "We got as much conduit into
those tubes as we possibly could," said Kolaya. "There
was a lot that won't be needed for quite a while, but this
was the only opportunity we had to do it."
As with all tunnel jobs, one of the hardest aspects was access.
When work in the tunnels began, on one side of the river they
were building a new connecting tunnel and at the other Ground
Zero was still being cleaned-up. When the final beam was removed
from the WTC site on May 30, the PA had far more access the
New York end of the tunnels. It also allowed work to begin
on the new downtown station.
The Temporary Station
By far the largest part of the project is the design and construction
of the new PATH terminal on the site of the WTC.
Those working on it refer to it as the "temporary station"
because it is being conceived of as the first step in the
construction of a Grand Central Terminal-like transportation
hub for downtown. That hub will integrate the PATH and the
New York City subway system, and, some advocate, will include
new connections to the Long Island Rail Road as well.
The new temporary station is being built in the footprint
of the old. It is, Strobel says, "almost an exact image
of the station that was destroyed-five tracks, three platforms
right where they were before, and all the operational space
needed to run it."
"The whole station was demolished by the attack and so
was removed," said Groark. "The only structural
element that remained intact was the escalator hill, and a
good part of that was used for the new escalators."
The major difference is that before 9/11, when commuters came
to the top of the escalators they found themselves in the
shopping concourse under the towers. The concourse is, of
course, gone. A new means of reaching the street had to be
In the new station, after the traveler reaches the top of
the escalator, she or he will then ascend another set of stairs
and walk east underneath the #1 and #9 station. The PATH station's
exit will be on Church Street, near Fulton Street, where stairs
will come up to street level under a soon-to-be constructed
120-ft. by 90-ft. canopy. There will also be, for the first
time, a series of elevators to make the station ADA compliant.
"It's a simple low-key station," said Carla Banacci,
program manager for the Port Authority's in-house design team.
"The focus is on putting it back where it was and on
functionality, on allowing safe and easy access and egress.
It will be an open air-station. The sides of the station will
be open with an opaque vinyl mesh to help screen the on-going
construction on the site. On the inner walls that abut the
slurry wall, there will be fiberglass panels with photographic
images from the history of lower Manhattan and the PATH system.
The station's steel beams and metal deck will all be exposed.
"The station will be left plain so that it's easily adaptable
for the second, permanent station," said Banacci. "We're
trying to give it an appropriate presence that reflects its
temporary nature and leaves room for the future grand terminal."
In addition to the station itself, an entirely new substation
had to be built to provide power to the trains. The transformers
had to be manufactured and brought in from around the world
on a fast track.
To meet the goal of having the station fully operational by
November, crews are working, as they have from the beginning,
16-hours a day, six days a week.
And even as the completion of the temporary station nears,
planning is going on for the next stage of reconstruction.
"We're determined to keep in step with Gov. (George)
Pataki's timetable," concluded Menno. "We have the
goal of the third or fourth quarter of 2006 for the permanent
station. We're working closely with the Lower Manhattan Development
Corp. and Silverstein Properties to finish the design this
year and break ground early next year."