The Phoenix…..Hits Another Roadblock

The once-rapid progress at the World Trade Center site has been slowed to a near halt…again.

For years, the World Trade Center site hit setback after setback, until a couple of years ago, when design changes and bureaucratic gridlock appeared to be gone. The smooth sailing has hit the wall again.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the two-state infrastructure agency in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center, was blasted as being “dysfunctional” and plagued with “poorly coordinated capital planning processes, insufficient cost controls, and a lack of transparent and effective oversight…” by auditors on Tuesday, February 5.

In 2008, the entire project had an estimated cost of about $11 billion. Independent companies that are contracting with the Port Authority said they would pay for a large part of the construction and the agency itself would only be spending a few billion (because, you know, that’s such a light number these days…). As of 2012, the cost has risen $3.8 billion, giving the site a current price tag of $14.8 billion. Even with independent companies picking up a large chunk of the tab, the Port Authority will end up spending nearly $8 billion, quite the far cry from the $6 billion estimate from way back when in 2008.

What did the Port Authority have to say? “It isn’t our fault!” They blamed the companies they had contracted with for delays and the bad economy, the latter becoming an increasingly irrelevant explanation.

Even before this report came out, I suspected something was wrong. I wrote monthly updates on progress at the World Trade Center site last year, using the title “The Phoenix Rises” followed by the appropriate month (ie: “November Edition”). Now it appears that the Phoenix is having a little trouble being reborn.

One World Trade Center’s (the main building in the complex) one-floor-a-week method of construction appeared to stop almost two months ago. Construction of the steel framework got to the 90th floor in mid December and then it awkwardly stopped. Since then, I’ve consistently checked construction updates and…’s early February and….still at the 90th floor. My plan was to write about how the tower had reached the 93rd-95th floor in January. By now, it should have been around 98 floors high.

The Port Authority blamed bad weather for the delayed construction….of almost two months. That would’ve been believable if it had been said in late December or early January.

Sadly, progress on both Two and Three World Trade Center has been postponed. Two World Trade Center, planned to be 88 stories, is stalled at ground level and the beautiful, cross-beam-styled Three World Trade Center, planned to be 80 floors, is in danger of becoming a seven story stump.

Let’s hope the Port Authority gets its act together, Oh, wait nevermind. It’s just the weather and those darn third parties…

World Trade Center - late January 2012