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Feds give New York billions to rebuild transportation

The collapse of the World Trade Center and its subterranean rail station has seriously disrupted rail traffic.
The collapse of the World Trade Center and its subterranean rail station has seriously disrupted rail traffic.  

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN New York Bureau

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A bevy of New York-area politicians turned out Monday at Ground Zero to acknowledge the receipt of $4.5 billion in federal money to rebuild the transportation infrastructure destroyed by the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Standing on the southern end of the 16-acre pit where the World Trade Center's twin towers once stood, the leaders envisioned a modern transportation hub for Lower Manhattan that might exceed in size the city's Grand Central Terminal in midtown.

New York Governor George Pataki announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Transit Administration have allocated a total of $4.55 billion to reconstruct train tracks, tunnels, and platforms and to link -- for the first time -- many of the city's commuter lines in one downtown station.

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"It allows us to do what we said we would do on the day of September 11th," he said, "and that is not just re-create what was here on the morning of September 11th, but work to create a 21st century infrastructure and to make Lower Manhattan greater -- a 24-hour community, the world financial center, but greater than it was on the morning of September 11th."

Pataki, along with New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy, oversees the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the transportation agency that owns the Trade Center site. The Port Authority already has plans for a new hub that would integrate the city's subway lines with commuter trains that carried 65,000 workers a day from New Jersey into Manhattan before the attacks.

The proposed terminal also would connect bus and ferry service and restore the vast underground retail space destroyed on September 11, 2001.

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's administration has floated the idea of taking over the World Trade Center site, possibly by trading the city land that houses John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, which the Port Authority also runs.

Pataki brushed aside any thoughts of rivalry for control of the rebuilding process, and referred to "the city, the state, all working not as competitors but as partners to move forward."

Bloomberg said rebuilding the downtown transit hub would be another step toward defeating terrorism.

"We have to make absolutely sure that we do not let the terrorists win. We have to rebuild New York not just for New York's sake, not just for the people that live here and work here and commute from elsewhere to here, but for the whole country," the mayor said.

Dan Doctoroff, Bloomberg's deputy mayor for economic development and the architect of the land swap proposal, explained the importance of rebuilding the mass transit system first.

"You got to bring workers, visitors, residents. Everybody has got to find it easier to get here, and easier to get around here. And that in many ways is the precondition to success," Doctoroff said.

Of the $21 billion dollars Congress has allocated to aid New York, FEMA controls the largest chunk. Besides the transportation funds, FEMA has allocated $3.5 billion for the Ground Zero clean-up, $1.5 billion for repairing damaged buildings nearby, and $750 million for individual assistance, from disaster housing to property-loss grants.

FEMA Deputy Director Michael Brown said the agency would not dictate to New York how to rebuild its mass transit system. "You figure out what's best for you, and we're going to fund that for you," Brown said.

"The money is critical. The $20 billion that was promised and has now been delivered was a real vote of confidence in the future of New York," said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who also attended the event.

Seeking to reassure families of attack victims, she added, "Nothing we're announcing or doing today in any way undermines or defers the importance decisions about the memorial," a point Pataki reiterated.




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