By Erin Delmore
The World Trade Center’s sprawling new transit hub is many things to many people — an ethereal pair of angle’s wings, a rib cage guarding the heart of the city, a slender stegosaurus, even a haughty hedgehog.
To Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the structure is evocative of a bird in flight. Commuters say it’s taken too long to get off the ground.
Count 14 years since 9/11, 12 since Calatrava unveiled his avant-garde design, six since builders broke ground. The “Oculus” opens Thursday at 3 p.m. to New York and New Jersey’s up to 100,000 daily PATH riders. Overdue and over budget. The most expensive train station ever built, at $4 billion.
“Oh, that’s big money man, they have to do big things,” said New York City resident Bill Watson.
Originally authorized at $2 billion, the project’s price tag doubled while construction ran eight years behind schedule. The Port Authority’s initial $300 million offering turned into a $1 billion contribution. Critics say that money was needed elsewhere, as New Jersey commuters fight for a revamped Port Authority Bus Terminal and additional Hudson River rail tunnels.
“Because of its very special nature, it had to evolve with technology changes, security changes, environmental changes, mainly being LEED Gold, that we had to react to that. We could’ve stayed within the original parameters, but the challenge there would be we would’ve been out of date the day we opened,” said Port Authority Chief of Major Capital Projects Steven Plate.
The building offers every bell and whistle — marble from northern Italy, energy-efficient LED lights, Wi-Fi and a skylight set to open every Sept. 11, and on fine weather days. Hovering above the skylight? The Freedom Tower.
This massive structure is 350 feet long, 115 feet across. The ceiling reaches 96 feet above the ground and the massive spires, you can see from outside, are 168 feet high.
“It offers much more than a modern station. It’s also a place where people will come just for shopping, they will come to work here because it’s connecting all the towers around, and they will come also to go from one place to another. Those coming from the ferry from New Jersey to the World Financial Center,” said Calatrava.
Thursday marks only a partial opening. In a few months, the new PATH terminal will be linked with 11 MTA subway lines. Rows of shops are expected to open in the summer.