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The ground works contractor for the World Trade Center memorial told GE about the unique challenges of working at Ground Zero. Damian Arnold spoke to EE Cruz's Steve Molon

THE $17M (£9M) ground engineering contract for the World Trade Center memorial in New York City is continuing apace despite tough challenges for ground works contractor EE Cruz.

The New Jersey-based firm that is two months into the high profile contract to install 142 foundations on the footprint of the twin towers of the World Trade Center (GE September) shares access to the Ground Zero site from one temporary ramp with many other contractors working on other schemes.

'Like many jobs it's been a slow start but it's a very tough site, ' said EE Cruz chief estimator Steve Molon, adding he was confident it would finish the 32-week contract on time in the spring. 'Access and site co-ordination issues are the biggest challenge. Site security is very stringent and co-ordination 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 along side the site.

'We are liaising with a bunch of different entities and different contractors all with different aspirations, ' said Molon.

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.'

The work itself 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.

Ground water is also being pumped out and new drainage pipes fitted.

'We are still in the process of removing the old concrete foundations and subterranean level of the tower, ' said Molon. 'We are breaking it up with hammers and putting into trucks.

'Then 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, ' said Molon. 'We are still getting areas prepared and we expect to start pouring concrete for the foundations in the next month or two.'

But what Molon does not want is for EE Cruz to start pouring concrete and then have to start again because of design changes.

'It's still a design in progress and construction is pushing design, ' he said. 'A lot of design issues aren't finalised and we are getting little revisions here and there. the last thing we want to do is build something that isn't in the final plan.'

He expects further revisions when it comes to putting the finishing touches on the foundations because it is here that the families of those killed on 9/11 are likely to get more closely involved on what the final scheme should look like. The proposal for the names of those lost in the tragedy to be engraved on the surface of the memorial is still under discussion.

Construction manager for the Freedom Tower, Tishman Construction, has already been delayed on foundation work because of major design changes at the last minute, said Molon.

He said the foundations were ready to begin for the Freedom Tower but last minute security concerns meant moving them away from the street. This meant the whole foundations design had to be changed.

Despite the challenges, Molon said he was 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 said EE Cruz was very 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. We started bidding in January and procurement took six months. We were passed from one entity to another - construction manager Bovis then the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and then the World Trade Memorial Fund. But it has been worth waiting for and relations with Bovis and New Jersey Port Authority are excellent, ' he said.

'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.'

EE Cruz plans to stay involved in the site for some time to come and is now bidding for other foundation contracts being procured on the site including structural preparation work for the Path Station and the new road alongside the site.

'We are in the process of bidding for a bunch of new stuff down there and hopefully will get some more work, ' he said.

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