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Ground Zero proves to be a tough prospect for contractor EE Cruz


The groundworks contractor for the World Trade Center memorial tells EF about the unique challenges of working at Ground Zero. Damian Arnold spoke to EE Cruz's Steve Molon.

EE CRUZ has faced some tough and unique challenges in carrying out the $17M (e13.2M) ground engineering contract for the World Trade Center memorial in New York City.

The New Jersey-based firm is contracted to install 142 foundations on the footprint of the twin towers.

But it has been far from plain sailing. The discovery in October of scores of human bones from those who died when the World Trade Center was destroyed in 2001 led to pleas from victim's families for construction of the memorial and the Freedom Tower to halt while a more extensive search for body parts was made.

But it has been the design teams that have slowed progress. More than four months since starting on site, the contractor is still waiting to pour the fist concrete foundations - work that should have started in October.

'The designers are still trying to figure out what they want to do and in the meantime we are blasting and digging and getting ready while they fine tune the design, ' says EE Cruz chief estimator Steve Molon. 'It would be nice to have a design finalised, quite a few areas haven't been released to us yet.'

Molon is keen to avoid a situation where EE Cruz starts pouring concrete only to have to start again because of design changes.

'It's still a design in progress, ' he says. 'A lot of issues aren't finalised and we are getting little revisions here and there. For example, they've just decided that some of the original concrete slab that we were going to clear away should be kept. . . the last thing we want to do is build something that isn't in the final plan.'

Another issue is the fact that EE Cruz shares access to the Ground Zero site from one temporary ramp with many other contractors working on different schemes.

'Like many jobs it's been a slow start but it's a very tough site, ' says Molon, adding that he is confident it would finish the 32-week contract on time in the spring. 'Access and site coordination issues are the biggest challenge. Site security is very stringent and coordination with other contractors is tough. Work on the foundations for the Freedom Tower started before us, so when we came in they had to move a lot of their stuff to accommodate us.'

As well as work on the Freedom Tower, works have begun on the new train station for the Path train line from New Jersey and work will soon start on a new road that will run alongside the site.

Things have improved since the Port Authority of New Jersey took overall responsibility for the site. 'We are starting to see more co-ordination all round as the Port Authority takes greater control, ' says Molon.

The work involves removing the remaining concrete foundations of the basement levels of the World Trade Center and drilling and rock blasting the basement rock to get down to hard Manhattan Shist rock underneath on which the new concrete foundations will be built.

Groundwater is also being pumped out and new drainage pipes fitted.

'There is a layer of softer decomposing rock that we have to remove.

You don't have to go that far down to get to the stratum of very hard rock that will take the higher loads, ' says Molon.

Despite the challenges, Molon says he is enjoying working on such a unique and high-profile project.

'It's been very nice being more in the public eye than we are used to.

It's a heavily scrutinised site and there are so many visitors all the time. No-one usually pays much attention to the work of the foundation contractor - they just notice the pretty stuff on top. But people are really looking at the work we are doing here.'

Having been involved in the clean up and rescue operation in the days following the 9/11 attacks, Molon says EE Cruz was keen to pursue the contract for the foundations.

'It took a long time to come to fruition and we are not doing it so much for commercial reasons. Everyone has one thing in mind and that is to get the work done. No one likes looking at an open hole in the ground, it's not pretty to look at and it's a bitter reminder of what went on. We would like to see things move on as quickly as possible.'

Cruz wins transport job

EE Cruz has won a $40M (e31M) groundworks contract for the New Jersey Path station and mass transit hub station at Ground Zero. It will install 459, 270mm diameter micropiles 26m deep and 931 steel tie backs. The piles and tie backs will secure the ground above while the excavation takes place.

The micropiling is due to complete by the middle of next year and the tie backs by the end of 2007.

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