M.T.A. puts $424 million of Obama money in Fulton station

By Julie Shapiro

On Wednesday, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority committee announced it would spend $424 million of federal stimulus money in order to complete the Fulton Transit Center with its oculus and restore the historic Corbin Building with retail shops. The nearby northbound Cortlandt St. station could reopen by the end of year.

The long-delayed Fulton Transit Center has a budget and a schedule at last, thanks to a $424 million boost from the federal government.

The glass-domed station, which will link 12 subway lines and connect to the PATH trains, was once supposed to open at the end of 2007 and cost $750 million. The station’s estimate is now $1.4 billion and the M.T.A. expects it to open in June 2014, the first completion date they have given for the project since announcing a year and a half ago that they had run out of money to build it.

“It’s great that we fought for it,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told Downtown Express.

The M.T.A. announced the funding news at a meeting of its Capital Construction, Planning and Real Estate Committee Wednesday morning.

The station will rise at the corner of Fulton St. and Broadway, where the M.T.A. demolished a row of buildings in 2006, displacing more than 100 businesses. The new station will include a slightly scaled-down version of the glass oculus that received wide praise in the original design. The project also includes over 26,000 square feet of retail and the restoration of the adjacent historic Corbin Building.

“It’s a great day for Lower Manhattan,” said Liz Berger, president of the Downtown Alliance and one of the strongest advocates for the station. “I hear from owners and brokers all the time that this is the facility tenants are waiting for…. Now we know that it’s real.”

The current station, which connects nine subway lines, is hard to navigate, with a maze of ramps and confusing signs. The new station will simplify connections and eliminate the ramps.

Before receiving the federal stimulus money, the M.T.A. said they did not have enough money to build the aboveground station, which will cost $170 million. The $424 million in stimulus funding will cover pieces of the belowground work, freeing up money for the station building. The authority will spend about 40 percent of its $1.1 billion federal grant on the Downtown complex.

In addition to the stimulus money, the M.T.A. received $847 in federal post-9/11 money for the station and added $129 million of its own money.

While the Fulton Transit Center will not be complete until 2014, other pieces of the station will open as they are finished, in a rollout similar to the Times Square renovation. Some parts of the project are already done, including improvements to the 2/3 platforms and new entrances to the 4/5.

Next up will be the opening of the nearby Cortlandt St. R/W station’s northbound platform this December. The entire station has been closed since 2005, and it will be at least 2011 before the southbound side can open, but the community has long pushed for the M.T.A. to open as much of the station as they can.

Catherine McVay Hughes, vice chairperson of Community Board 1, is glad part of the station will open in time for Christmas shopping this year. She said the additional transportation option would help businesses like Century 21 and the Millenium Hotel.

Other parts of the Fulton Transit Center will be done in 2011, when a new entrance will open at William St., along with a new, more direct connection between the A/C and 4/5.

The year 2012 will bring more changes, with the renovated 4/5 station and new Dey St. entrance expected to open in the summer; the Dey St. concourse in the fall; and the restored Corbin building with first-floor retail opening at the end of the year, if the current schedule holds. The Corbin building work will cost $75 million, not including design fees.

Finally, the rebuilt A/C mezzanine could open in the spring of 2013, and just over a year later, the station building is planned to be completed.

The M.T.A. hopes to award its next round of contracts this August for the A/C mezzanine, J/M/Z elevators and William St. entrance.

Those who have been fighting for the station for years did not sound daunted by the lengthy schedule of work that lies ahead.

“It would have been great if they’d met the original deadline, but it’s so exciting that they have the funding in place and they have a timeline,” Hughes said. “It’ll be nice to see it complete.”

Both Hughes and Berger said they would have to hold the M.T.A. to the project’s new schedule. The M.T.A.’s own slideshow, presented to board members Wednesday, seems to anticipate their concern, and includes a slide entitled “Back on Track: Roadmap to Completing Mega Projects.”

To that end, the M.T.A. has assigned new project executives to the Fulton Transit Center and will avoid any more mid-stream changes to the plan, the presentation states.

“This is the best news we have had in a very long time,” Hughes said. “It should renew everyone’s confidence that the heart of the Financial District is not being ignored.”