NEW YORK CITY-The Port Authority on Thursday awarded a $542-million contract on the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, the largest to date on the $3.2-billion transit center. A spokesman for the Port Authority tells there are several more big contracts yet to be awarded on the project.

The contract awarded to Skanska USA Civil Northeast, Granite Construction Northeast and Skanska USA Building entails the construction of the PATH Hall in the WTC site’s West Bathtub. Four rail platforms will be built, and the contract also calls for installation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; plumbing work; fire protection; architectural finishes; and ADA compliance measures.

Prior to Thursday, the biggest contract for the transit hub was a $338.8-million contract to DCM Erectors in April 2009 to furnish, fabricate and erect 22,305 tons of structural steel for the transportation hub. This past November, the Port also awarded a contract for what it calls “one of the most critical work packages” on the project: the Greenwich Street corridor and underpinning of the No. 1 Subway line, which came in at 28% under budget.

Included in the Skanska/Granite contract is a “deck-over” solution for the construction of the PATH Hall roof to make it possible for the Memorial Plaza, part of which sits on the roof, to open in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 a year-and-a-half from now. “This contract keeps this world-class facility on schedule and on budget, and will help ensure we keep our commitment to opening the 9/11 Memorial on the 10th anniversary,” Chris Ward, executive director of the Port, says in a statement. “We look forward to continuing the momentum on this key public transportation project, which will serve 200,000 commuters per day, provide service on the PATH system, connect 13 different subway lines, link the World Financial Center and the ferry system, house world-class retail and more.”

Thursday’s PATH Hall contract may square with the Port’s stated aim of having the memorial plaza open for the 10th anniversary ceremonies in September 2011. Yet the Federal Transit Administration in January issued a report shedding serious doubts on the likelihood of finishing the transit hub on schedule and on budget.

According to published reports, the FTA report says the project has less than a 10% chance of being completed by its current deadline of June 14, and about a 25% likelihood of staying within the projected $3.2-billion cost. Currently, the project is costing $1 billion more than originally budgeted, and if it opens in 2014 it will be seven years behind the original schedule.

The FTA report predicts that the transit center is likely to be “substantially complete” in May 2015 and open in December of that year. By the time it’s done, it could end up costing as much as $3.7 billion, according to published reports.

The Port spokesman tells the authority is not disputing the FTA’s view. “We are analyzing the report and developing strategies to mitigate the risks that lead to these probabilities, so we can keep the project on time and on budget,” he says, declining to comment further.

According to articles in the New York Post and Tribeca Trib, a key factor in the FTA’s assessment is the interdependence of the transit hub and many other elements of the redevelopment at Ground Zero. In a 60 Minutes segment that aired this past Sunday, Ward likened the mega-project to “a game of pick-up sticks,” in which knocking one component off kilter affects all of the others.

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