Transportation Takes Flight at the Oculus

The awe-inspiring design of the recently completed Transportation Hub in New York City allows travelers to have a quick and efficient commute in state-of-the-art style.
By Dani Neiley
Photos by Silverstein Properties Inc.

      In the heart of lower Manhattan stands a building that seems to defy gravity and inspires awe from all bystanders. Meet the World Trade Center Transportation Hub—it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

In 2003, Daniel Libeskind, a Polish-American architect, created a master plan for the site. However, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey decided to modify the plan to include a larger transportation station. The plans were then passed on to Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish neo-futuristic architect, who designed the station that exists now.

Calatrava originally wanted the above-ground building, the Oculus, to resemble a bird being released from a child’s hand. His design was incredibly grand in scale and involved a mechanism that would allow the roof to open and close in order to bring more light and ventilation to the building, but budget and space constraints required the design to be modified. Despite the scaling down that took place, the project ran way over budget with a final price tag of nearly four billion dollars and it took 12 years to complete. Plus, there are several critics of the building’s structure; they have compared it to everything from Jurassic dinosaurs to the shape of a rack of lamb.

Nearly four billion dollars and twelve years later, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub is the third largest transportation center in New York City, with upwards of 250,000 daily commuters and millions of annual visitors.
Nearly four billion dollars and twelve years later, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub is the third largest transportation center in New York City, with upwards of 250,000 daily commuters and millions of annual visitors.

Yet, against all odds, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub officially opened to the public on March 3rd, 2016, thanks to thousands of dedicated union workers and staff. “The board of commissioners salutes those whose years of toil finally brought this project to fruition,” said Scott Rechler, the Vice Chairman for Port Authority. “They have created an iconic structure for generations of New Yorkers, commuters and visitors.” Although several areas in the hub were still closed off to the public, the grand opening was a huge celebration for New York City.

“The World Trade Center PATH Hub was a challenging project for the agency in terms of timetable and costs, but the men and women of the Port Authority and the contractors who worked on this nationally important infrastructure project should be rightly proud of their efforts,’’ said John Degnan, Chairman for Port Authority. “We trust the Oculus will serve a vital transportation need for the region, while becoming an important landmark for the metropolitan area and nation in the decades to come.”

Indeed, critics of the building’s aesthetic have failed to consider the practical value of the transportation hub. When the eastern portion of the Transportation Hub officially opened on May 26th, along with the Dey Street Connection to the Fulton Center, it gave 50,000 PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) commuters direct connections to nine New York City subway lines: 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z and R. By the end of 2016, the Transportation Hub will be officially complete with additional links to the E and No. 1 subway lines; commuters will have access to 11 subway lines, the East River ferries, and PATH trains.

With exterior construction nearly finished, the Oculus makes for an eye-catching addition to the traditional architecture of Manhattan’s skyscrapers.
With exterior construction nearly finished, the Oculus makes for an eye-catching addition to the traditional architecture of Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

According to a Port Authority press release, “The new facility contains state-of-the-art escalators and elevators for convenient vertical circulation between the trains and street level.” Inside the Oculus, more than 100,000 PATH commuters receive a greatly enhanced commute thanks to quicker, climate-controlled access to the Wall Street area and other destinations to the north and south of the hub. But the Transportation Hub isn’t solely for commuting – numerous shops are located throughout the Oculus and in the adjoining passageways. The shops started to open in phases during the spring. Shoppers can expect to find a diverse collection of high-end clothing with stores such as Aldo, Michael Kors, and Vince Camuto.

“The Port Authority has a rich tradition in pushing the envelope and being the premier master builder in the region,” said Scott Rechler, Vice Chairman for Port Authority. “The rebirth of the World Trade Center and the construction of the Transportation Hub touched not only Lower Manhattan, but the rest of the country and the world as well. We can all stand in awe with what has been accomplished here.”

The completion of the state-of-the-art World Trade Center Transportation Hub makes it the third largest transportation center in New York City and it represents one of the most integrated networks of underground pedestrian connections to mass transit lines in the entire city.

“This project is a testament to the spirit of New York City, and our commitment to rebuilding and providing improved public transportation connections for everyone who lives, works, or visits Lower Manhattan,” said Therese McMillan, Acting Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration.

 

Dani Neiley is an Assistant Editor for American Infrastructure magazine. She may be reached at dani@penpubinc.com.

Leave a Reply