No plan for W.T.C. buses in the early years

By Skye H. McFarlane

The Port Authority has no plan for the hordes of tour buses expected to drive to the World Trade Center memorial the first two years it is open — a period when crowds are expected to be the largest.

The issue of idling tour buses at the World Trade Center site surfaced Monday when Community Board 1’s W.T.C. Committee met to hear a status report from the Port Authority.

The Port announced that its vehicle security center, which will provide the parking for visiting tour buses, will not open until 2011 at the earliest. The memorial is under construction and is scheduled to open by Sept. 11, 2009. The security center will be built under the damaged Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St., where a deliberate demolition is expected to begin soon.

Finding space for the tour buses was one of the earliest, most contentious fights connected to W.T.C. rebuilding, but it appeared to be settled years ago after the garage was moved from an area under the memorial to 130 Liberty. Millions of people are expected to visit the memorial every year, with the highest number, perhaps 7 million, in the first year.

When board members asked what the Port Authority planned to do with the buses in the interim, Port representatives fell silent before saying they were not sure. Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesperson, later confirmed there is no plan in place yet to deal with bus traffic, but that the agency will work with the city to come up with a solution.

C.B. 1 member Pat Moore, whose building overlooks the World Trade Center site, said Wednesday that the buses in question would likely drive beneath her window, to the tune of as many as 200 a day. The Port needs an interim plan, she said.

“We don’t want them stopping and idling,” Moore said. “We don’t want them driving around causing traffic jams.”

Moore worries that even when parking is in place, buses will create hazards on the narrow streets below the trade center site and spew large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.

“We’ve already been exposed to enough contaminants,” Moore said.

John Dellaportas, a Battery Park City resident and founder of the Save West Street Coalition, said he was not surprised that the Port Authority hasn’t yet come up with a bus parking solution.

“Its just typical of the poor planning that authorities have done with respect to every aspect of the World Trade Center site,” Dellaportas said.

Dellaportas added his belief that the two-year parking gap will become a moot point. Based on what has happened at the site so far, he doubts that either the memorial or the vehicle security center will open on time.

Lynn Rasic, spokesperson for the W.T.C. Memorial Foundation, argued that there is plenty of time between now and 2009 to work out a viable solution for the bus parking and that there is no cause for residents to be alarmed.

“The foundation is working with its government partners at the Port Authority and the [Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center] to ensure that there is an interim plan,” Rasic said. “We are three years out. There is time to develop a plan to keep the traffic moving.”

Construction of the Vehicle Security Center will begin in the fall of 2007. In addition to bus parking, the facility will have security screening as well as loading and unloading points for trucks servicing the new World Trade towers. The Port Authority’s new PATH station and transit hub is also set to open in 2011.