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Ground Zero rebuilding begins with transit hub

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NEW YORK -- Rebuilding of New York's World Trade Center officially began Tuesday with groundbreaking on a $2.2 billion transportation hub, four years after the 2001 terrorist attack that destroyed the twin towers, killing 2,749 people.

The terminal will serve Port Authority Trans-Hudson, or PATH, commuter rail passengers from New Jersey and provide an underground connection to 11 New York City subway lines.

The ceremony in the 70-foot pit at Ground Zero marks the start of projects including a $350 million memorial and a 1,776-foot skyscraper, the Freedom Tower, to be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.

"When the entire mass transit system of this part of Manhattan was destroyed, we vowed that we weren't going to just re-create what was here, we were going to move beyond it," New York Gov. George Pataki said last week, describing the station designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava as "magnificent."

The arched, glass and steel main concourse features bird-like "wings" stretching up to 150 feet beyond the apex. The glass roof, which can be opened at the top, will provide light down to track level.

The station, to be completed in 2009, will be linked to the World Financial Center and a Hudson River ferry terminal and to the subways at the $750 million Fulton Street Transit Center, where ground was broken Aug. 30.

Though Tuesday's ceremony marks the official beginning of rebuilding, construction won't begin until Sept. 12, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16-acre trade center site.

The delay is to allow families of victims of the trade center attack to hold one last ceremony at bedrock level on Sept. 11, the fourth anniversary of the disaster.

Workers will put rubber covers over the sawed-off steel footings of the twin towers to protect them from damage during construction of the transportation hub, Coleman said.

The station, serving PATH lines from Newark and Hoboken, N.J., is expected to handle 250,000 people a day by 2020, according to the port authority. The station it replaces served 67,000 a day.

A $566 million temporary station has been in place since November of 2003, the only structure inside the trade center site.

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