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Re-creating Ground Zero

The World Trade Center Twin Towers used to be the financial center of the world. The 9/11 terrorist attacks changed all that and claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Skanska is part of the re-creation of southern Manhattan.

Despite the tragic events that took place here, Ground Zero remains as busy as ever. You could almost believe it is the construction center of the world. As many as 45 different projects and stakeholders and about 100 construction and engineering companies are currently working side-by-side to recreate the 16-acre site's iconic status. Skanska is one of those companies.

Ground Zero construction site, photographer Per-Anders Pettersson

Activities above and under ground

Six high rises, including the 1,776-foot (541-meter) 1 World Trade Center formerly known as the Freedom Tower), are reaching toward the sky, higher every day and ever more visible to the public that make pilgrimages to this venerated site.

Underground activities are just as hectic, as the transportation infrastructure is being restored and upgraded, crucial to the revival of the area but not as visible to the public.

Initially, the west side of the Ground Zero site was excavated down to about 70 feet (21.3 meters) below street level. Now, the “west bathtub” is being filled with an intricate web of rail tracks, platforms, pedestrian walkways and mezzanines. 

Skanska here since the day after the attacks

Skanska has been permanently active here since September 12, 2001, doing clean-up and excavation as well as today's construction work.

Crossroad section designed by Calatrava

By 2014, hundreds of thousands of people will pass by here every day to and from work and meetings in offices and retail centers. The WTC Transportation Hub is the crossroad for several subway lines and the PATH train line connecting New Jersey and Lower Manhattan.

Eye-catching structure of the aboveground station

Renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has designed a stunning structure to crown the aboveground section of the PATH station, also known as the WTC Transportation Hub Transit Hall. Calatrava's Oculus building will be a mere 200 feet (65 meters) tall but still one of the most spectacular and eye-catching structures at the new World Trade Center.

How to realize this vision is currently on Skanska's drawing board. Construction of the aboveground structure is scheduled to commence next year. Meanwhile, all other work is taking place underground.

“With the subway and regional rail connections, it is like an airport terminal, but underground. Our working area spills into many of the other projects. We have to coordinate with all of the other activities being carried out here. And we have the PATH trains running through our site,” says Michael Goetz, Skanska Field Engineer.

Memorial plaza finished

Some of the work already performed by Skanska includes the concrete slab that will form the memorial plaza and serve as the ceremonial ground for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks this September.

Working at the site

The schedule and the complexity of construction and logistics make it necessary to work six- to seven-day weeks in two 10- hour shifts. The number of Skanska personnel varies from about 150 to 500 depending on the task that needs to be performed during that phase. Currently, in June 2011, steel and concrete work is being carried out.

All milestones met so far

Coordination of activities is key. Building information modeling (BIM) is being used for planning and to obtain an overview of the projects. “All milestones have been met so far,” says Adam Benincasa, Field Engineer at Skanska.

Honor to be part of the re-creation work

Working at the Ground Zero site is deeply connected to the 9/11 trauma. “It's a wonderful honor to be part of the efforts to restore this site,” says Michael. “We are proud to be here, to have been assigned to these prestigious projects. But we've been here so long that we're not as emotionally affected by it anymore,” says Jay Harrison, a Skanska Superintendent.

As his colleague Greg Shaw confirms, “It's a special project, but the emotional phase has passed for us, considering that we've been here several years. Now we're focused on construction and getting the job done.”