Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Successes in Stewardship
Monthly Newsletter
November 2006

Rebuilding New York City: US DOT Oversees the Reconstruction of Transportation in Lower Manhattan

Rendering of the new World Trade Permanent PATH Terminal. (Image courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.)
A rendering of the new World Trade Permanent PATH Terminal. FTA awarded the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey $1.921 billion for the project, which is expected to be completed in 2011. (Image courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.)

The September 11th attacks on Lower Manhattan, New York City, destroyed part of the third largest business district in the nation as well as the transportation infrastructure that served it. Roads and transit facilities constitute a significant foundation for the rebuilding of New York City, particularly since more than 85 percent of the 385,000 people who are employed in Lower Manhattan use public transit to get to and from the area.

The Federal government appropriated $4.55 billion dollars for projects to reconstruct and enhance Lower Manhattan's transportation infrastructure. The inherent sensitivity and high levels of funding attached to these projects made them high priority projects for the Department of Transportation (DOT). Recognizing the need for intensive oversight and congressional appropriations to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), DOT and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed an MOU naming FTA the lead oversight agency on these projects, and charged FTA with distributing and overseeing the use of the dedicated funding.

This issue of Successes in Stewardship describes some of FTA's and FHWA's best practices for environmental planning and project oversight, highlights some lessons described in Lower Manhattan Reconstruction: Lessons Learned from Large Transportation Projects, and identifies examples that can be applied to other transportation projects across the county.

FHWA's and FTA's Oversight Roles

The high-priority concurrent projects in Lower Manhattan require extensive coordination among agencies and attentive project oversight. Key to properly managing the environmental planning is ensuring that all the agencies involved understand each other's roles and responsibilities. In July 2002, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for environmental planning, titled Environmental Coordination and Review Among the Federal Partners of the Federal Task Force to Rebuild New York City, formalized the process for the Federal agency review of projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The MOU is intended to help develop environmentally responsible projects by encouraging efficiency and coordination among agencies.

MOU Signatories

The following agencies participated in the Memorandum of Understand for the Environmental Coordination and Review Among the Federal Partners of the Federal Task Force to Rebuild New York City:

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Transit Administration
Federal Highway Administration
Empire State Development Corporation
Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
US Department of Housing and Urban Development
US Environmental Protection Agency
US Army Corps of Engineers
US Coast Guard
US Fish and Wildlife Service
National Marine Fisheries Service

The MOU designated FEMA, FTA, and FHWA as lead agencies for the resulting four Lower Manhattan reconstruction projects and Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (see box). Nearly $87 million was allocated to FTA for oversight activities. FTA created the Lower Manhattan Recovery Office (LMRO), which is responsible for coordinating the DOT's resources and working with Federal, State, and local agencies to provide integrated project oversight and technical assistance. FHWA and FTA signed a Memorandum of Agreement, which shared oversight and funding of Route 9A Project, because it is primarily a roadway project. FHWA and FTA's approaches enabled them to work directly with project sponsors, which led to better project planning, integrated financial management, and open lines of communication.

Expedited Environmental Reviews and Coordination

Commitments made early in the planning process enabled the reconstruction projects to complete environmental reviews in accelerated time frames. The MOU signatories agreed to an expedited and accelerated environmental review process for all of the Lower Manhattan restoration transportation projects. The MOU set specific time frames for review, with signatory parties agreeing to provide a response or comment within 10 days from the date of receipt, and to provide comments and propose mitigations at the earliest stage possible in project development.

Lower Manhattan Reconstruction Projects

The Permanent World Trade Center PATH Terminal — Scheduled for completion in 2011, this terminal will serve the PATH subway system, which provides commuter service between New York City and New Jersey. The Terminal will also have pedestrian connections to the Fulton Street Transit Center and World Financial Center Ferry Terminal.

Fulton Street Transit Center — A multi-level complex of stations to serve 12 subway lines, this center will also connect the PATH Terminal and World Trade Center sites. Construction on this project started in July 2005 with completion scheduled for mid-2009.

South Ferry Terminal Station — This is the last station at the southern end of the 1/9 subway lines in Manhattan. The project will convert the old Battery Park Ferry Station to a new two-platform terminal with better access to the Staten Island Ferry and the R and W subway lines. This project began construction in May 2005 with plans for completion in May 2008.

Route 9A Project — Administered by FHWA, this project will rebuild the major north-south arterial roadway in Lower Manhattan between Chambers Street and Battery Place. The southern end of the project, Promenade South, will improve pedestrian circulation and accessibility to nearby parks and neighborhoods. This two-phase project is slated for completion by June 2009.

Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center — The command center will be used to coordinate and oversee the large number of construction projects planned for Lower Manhattan, bringing together private developers, public agencies, utilities, businesses, and resident representatives to implement strategies to minimize the impact of construction on all those who live, work, and visit in Lower Manhattan. The State of New York Executive Order that created the command center will expire in December 2010.

Another joint commitment that helped to expedite the review process was an Environmental Analysis Framework. Analyzing the environmental impacts of a project can be a very time consuming process. Developing one large assessment for all Federal projects in Lower Manhattan, including the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) sponsored redevelopment project at the World Trade Center Site, could potentially add significant time delays to the projects. Federal agencies and project sponsors developed and committed to a common methodological framework, which was used to evaluate potentially adverse impacts, particularly construction cumulative effects, across all Lower Manhattan projects. The cumulative effects analysis concentrated on the construction period because several major projects would be under construction concurrently in a dense urban setting which is an environmentally sensitive area. This framework allowed each project to be completed at its own pace within the confines of the framework, which saved time and funding while ensuring that cumulative effects were being assessed program-wide, and resulted with fewer issues in environmental documents. The Fulton Street Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was completed in 21 months, and the Permanent World Trade Center PATH Terminal EIS was completed in 22 months, one year faster than the average 36 months it usually takes to complete an EIS for an FTA project.

Keys to Successful Project Management

Many basic project management principles, such as building coalitions and agreeing to expedite processes, can be applied to a range of projects with Federal, State and local involvement. FTA's construction oversight process focuses on all aspects of the construction process, from project scope to the environment, using project development agreements, which outline mutual understandings and responsibilities during project planning and design process.

Lower Manhattan Reconstruction: Lessons Learned from Large Transportation Projects, documenting FTA testimony to Congress, identifies many best practices for working with large pieces of Federal funding. One of the primary lessons noted in the document is to ensure "active oversight" through the entire project lifecycle, including oversight of Federal, State, and local contractors engaged in project and financial management. Examples of active oversight include:

  • The Federal government's active pursuit and prosecution of fraud cases that can drastically affect the outcome of a project and have serious environmental or financial ramifications.
  • The Environmental Coordination MOU illustrates how strong coalitions of Federal, State and local agencies can improve and expedite the environmental review process.
  • The Lower Manhattan Construction Integrity Team was founded in 2004 to prevent and detect fraud in all Lower Manhattan public projects. The team members share information and resources, and participate in joint activities such as employee screening, awareness training for contract supervisors, and centrally controlled access to Lower Manhattan public project sites.

Commemorating the Site for Future Generations

FTA, FHWA and HUD also worked together to determine the eligibility of the Lower Manhattan site under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 for the National Register of Historic Places. Sites of "extraordinary national significance" can be eligible for the register, even if they are of recent importance. Although no one was questioned the site's national historic significance, the agencies had to work with the public and stakeholders in Lower Manhattan to determine how the site would be historically commemorated. The entire World Trade Center site was deemed a "historic area," including six stories below ground, the foundation walls that hold the site, and the remaining pieces of the buildings.

The Lower Manhattan Transportation Reconstruction is one of the largest public works infrastructure rebuilding projects that the Federal government has overseen in recent history. Lessons learned from this project have already been applied to other Federal projects and will be a valuable resource for projects in the future.

Contact Information

Carol Braegelmann
FHWA Office of Program Development
and Environmental Review
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
Phone: 202-366-1701
Donald Burns and Paul Le Brun
FTA Lower Manhattan Recovery Office
1 Bowling Green, Room 436
New York, NY 10004
Phone: 212-668-1770
Maryann Naber
FHWA Office of Program Development
and Environmental Review
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
Phone: 202-366-2060

Look What's New!

The St. Croix River Crossing project, a bridge linking Stillwater, MN and Houlton, WI, has used innovative problem solving to engage Federal, state and local agencies to address transportation, historic preservation and environmental issues. For more information on the project, visit the project website.

"Successes in Stewardship" is a Federal Highway Administration newsletter highlighting current environmental streamlining and stewardship practices from around the country. To subscribe, visit the Registration Site, or call 617-494-3137.
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