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NEW YORK CITY-The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey awarded a $177.6-million contract to Tutor Perini Corp. of Peekskill, NY to build a permanent brace for the box that encloses the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s number 1 subway line’s stretch through Ground Zero, a move the authority says will ensure completion of access to the 9/11 memorial by the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The contract was approved during the Port’s board meeting at its Park Avenue South headquarters Thursday. That news comes on the heels of Wednesday’s dramatic installment of a 70-ton piece of steel at One World Trade Center.

The Port says the Tutor Perini construction contract comes in at 28% below the $248-million budget estimate for the project. In a release, the Port attributes the favorable bid to what it calls the agency’s “restructured procurement process” implemented earlier this year, to take advantage of what it calls a “hungry, competitive construction market.”

The Port says that the so-called top-down approach allows the subway box bracing to be completed ahead of previous schedules, ensuring public access to the 9/11 Memorial on Sept. 11, 2011. Also at Thursday’s meeting, the Port’s board authorized a $4.5-million contract to Atlantic Hoist and Scaffolding, LLC to extend the Vesey Street pedestrian bridge over the intersection of Vesey and Washington Streets, 50 feet east of Washington. The bridge will have an elevator, escalator and staircase.

During the WTC redevelopment subcommittee meeting held earlier on Thursday, board members lavished praise on World Trade Center project director Stephen P. Plate, for moving the project along at a more accelerated rate and completing milestones. Later, in response to questions over missed deadlines and reports, including last week’s leaked Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center analysis that put completion of the 9/11 memorial two years behind schedule and Tower One four years late, Port Authority executive director Chris Ward said “we are confident in the dates we announced.”

Ward added that “a theoretical analysis of where we will be flies in the face of the fact that we just secured a contract with dates” and to deliver by those set dates, with “incentives to deliver it sooner.” He said, “That is what will drive the schedule.”

He added that despite what the LMCCC indicated in its report, “the people we’ve been working closely with will validate we are on schedule for that delivery.” A spokeswoman for LMCCC had no comment.

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