Sources: World Trade Center Oculus to open in March

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The Oculus. (Billie Grace Ward)
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The white-marble main concourse at the Santiago Calatrava-designed, $4 billion World Trade Center Transportation Hub has been slated to open in early March, according to two knowledgeable sources.

The opening of the Oculus at the PATH train station — a steel-winged structure that's meant to evoke a bird — will mark the end of a more than decade-long process, one that has garnered scathing criticism for the project's cost overruns, and which damaged the designer's reputation.

The temporary PATH train station at the site now serves some 44,000 passengers making their way to and from New Jersey. The Port Authority, which made the decision on the timing of the Oculus opening, estimates the new hub will ultimately serve some 200,000 passengers and visitors. (By way of comparison, Penn Station serves 600,000.)  

At roughly $4 billion, nearly twice the anticipated cost, it's considered the most expensive train station in the world. Then-Governor George Pataki said it would be operational by 2009.

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The delays and ballooning price tag have been attributed to the complexity of the project, political imperatives, bureaucratic infighting, and the reality that some unrrelated cost overruns were shoehorned into the Calatrava budget.

More broadly, these sorts issues are also endemic to New York City megaprojects.

The bad press surrounding this particular project has taken its toll on Calatrava’s reputation.

“It has not been easy for me,” the Spanish architect told the Wall Street Journal in May, adding, "I have been treated like a dog."

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the PATH train system and its soon-to-open Oculus at Ground Zero, declined comment.

Calatrava, who is in Zurich right now, could not be reached for comment.

Even after the March opening, some parts of the station will take a little while longer. The mall that’s set to occupy the Oculus’ base, for example, has been delayed by leaks.

Eataly, one of the hub’s retail tenants, is slated to open in spring, according to one of the sources.

A spokeswoman for Eataly had no comment.