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Governor George E. Pataki today broke ground for the construction of a pedestrian bridge at Vesey Street spanning across Route 9A/West Street from the World Financial Center to the east side of Vesey Street, in front of the Verizon Building. The bridge, which is scheduled to open in November 2003, will provide direct access for thousands of pedestrians to the World Financial Center, Battery Park City, and the Hudson River waterfront. “This pedestrian bridge is another step forward along our timeline to rebuild Lower Manhattan,” Governor Pataki said. “The bridge will provide a new, safe and direct corridor across West Street for the residents of Battery Park City, workers from the World Financial Center, and tourists who have been flocking back to the downtown area. “The Vesey Street bridge is scheduled to open this November in conjunction with the opening of the temporary PATH Station. Once the bridge opens, thousands of pedestrians will have better access to their places of work and their homes,” the Governor said. The opening of the bridge is set to coincide with the opening of the temporary PATH station at the World Trade Center site in November 2003. The PATH station was destroyed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. A pedestrian bridge across West Street was also destroyed on September 11th. Vesey Street is currently closed to vehicular traffic other than construction-related vehicles, creating the need for a safe and direct walkway across West Street. The current 15-foot crosswalk at West Street and Vesey Street cannot safely accommodate the estimated 6,000 pedestrians that will cross West Street in the morning rush hour once the PATH station reopens. Construction of the bridge is being overseen by the State Department of Transportation in conjunction with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and funded by Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The project also includes construction of a special pedestrian walkway from the plaza of the temporary PATH station on Church Street to West Street along Vesey Street. Charles A. Gargano, Chairman of Empire State Development and Vice Chairman of the Port Authority said, “The Vesey Street pedestrian bridge is an important step forward in the economic recovery of Lower Manhattan. It will not only provide a safe haven for pedestrians, but will increase foot traffic in the area, which is vital to businesses. Governor Pataki's bold vision is quickly becoming reality and will make Lower Manhattan a better place to live and work.” Joseph H. Boardman, Commissioner of New York State Department of Transportation said, “This is a great example of how we can work closely with our partners in the public and private sectors to produce a high quality design that will improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.” Kevin M. Rampe President of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation said, “In April of this year, Governor Pataki laid out an aggressive timeline to improve access and enhance the quality of life in Lower Manhattan. Today, we make good on another milestone by launching a project that will help reconnect the World Financial Center and Battery Park with the rest of Lower Manhattan. Today’s groundbreaking is just one of the exciting improvements coming in the months ahead-- already the Greenmarket is back, Borders Bookstore has reopened, and in the fall, PATH service will return for the first time since the September 11th attacks and riders will have a new bridge to take them across West Street. I want to thank the Governor and the Mayor for their steadfast support of the revitalization and resurgence of Lower Manhattan.” Timothy Carey, President and CEO of the Battery Park City Authority said, “I want to thank Governor Pataki, the LMDC and the New York State Department of Transportation for answering the needs of the Battery Park City Community. Over the last 23 months we have been working diligently toward recovery and I am proud to report that today Battery Park City has a residential occupancy rate of 97 percent - two percent higher than it was on September 10, 2001. This bridge will ensure that residents, commuters and tourists have a safe way to navigate through our busy streets and enjoy the downtown experience.” Carl Weisbrod, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York said, “Every day, life in Lower Manhattan is getting better. The creation of a convenient and direct connection from the World Financial Center and Battery Park City to the soon to reopen PATH service and to the rest of the Downtown CBD is another extremely welcome milestone. We congratulate LMDC, the Port Authority and the State Department of Transportation for moving forward expeditiously to meet, if not beat, Governor Pataki's timetable for this project.” The bridge was designed on a fast track within six weeks, at a construction cost of approximately $11 million, which includes consultant engineering services. The construction of the bridge, the new pedestrian walkway along Vesey Street, and improvements to the Liberty Street bridge staircase are estimated to cost a total of approximately $21 million. Elevators are expected to be completed and operational by March. Escalators are expected to be completed and operational by April. The bridge will have an escalator on the east and west sides as well as stairs and elevators for ADA compliance. The bridge’s prefabricated steel structure will be a bright, aesthetically attractive environment, with a skylight that allows for natural light penetration and is compatible with the aesthetic of the surrounding area. The bridge will be managed by Brookfield Properties Corporation for day to day maintenance, operations and security. The structural maintenance will be performed by NYSDOT and it will be owned by NYSDOT as well. The bridge was designed by EarthTech, Inc. with Vollmer Associates and will be constructed by Yonkers Contracting Corp. The creation of a new pedestrian bridge over West Street and walkway is one of several short-term initiatives which Governor Pataki announced on April 24th to improve the quality of life in Lower Manhattan. Among the more than $60 million in projects is a new high school in Lower Manhattan, to open next month; the return of the World Trade Center Greenmarket, which opened in June; security and aesthetic improvements in the area around the New York Stock Exchange, currently in design; and the enhancement or creation of thirteen parks and open spaces throughout Lower Manhattan.