By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — From the corner of Fulton and Broadway, progress on the massive Fulton Street Transit Center is largely invisible.
But behind the blue plywood construction fence, the $1.4 billion train station is rapidly taking shape.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has already demolished the confusing tangle of ramps that once connected the subway platforms.
Workers are replacing narrow passageways with broad, column-free spaces that will join 10 subway lines with the World Trade Center PATH trains.
And the MTA is about to award the contract for the transit center’s glass-domed building, which will filter light down to the subway platforms when it opens in June 2014.
“This is the exciting part,” said Michael Horodniceanu, president of capital construction for the MTA, as he gave DNAinfo an exclusive tour Thursday. “It’s almost like raising a child. You just see it moving forward and becoming more functional.”
One of the most challenging pieces of the project — the underpinning of the 121-year-old Corbin Building — will be done as soon as next week. The foundation of the nine-story building originally went down only 20 feet and was not strong enough to keep the building standing during the construction of the transit center next-door.
The MTA added a layer of concrete 35-feet deep beneath the original foundation to stabilize it. It will also restore many of the building’s original features, including the grand marble staircase and terra cotta exterior.
The Corbin’s two foundations — the original in crumbling brick, the new one below it in smooth concrete — are clearly visible from the adjacent construction pit, where the Fulton Transit Center is rising.
“We’re so far beneath the foundation, while the building is still standing,” Horodniceanu said, standing about 30 feet below street level and pointing upward. “That’s engineering!”
A construction project this big cannot go forward without some inconvenience to subway riders. Trains on the A/C line often skip the Fulton Street stop, known as Broadway-Nassau, on weekends, and the 4, 5 and R lines could see some outages as well.
Horodniceanu said the service interruptions will continue over the next year but then will mostly be done, as work moves more and more above grade.
Several pieces of the sprawling station are scheduled to open before the official completion in 2014. Next year, the MTA plans to open the southbound R station at Cortlandt Street and a new entrance on William Street.
In 2012, the renovated 4/5 station is scheduled to open, along with a new entrance on the ground level of the Corbin Building, with retail and escalators leading up from the platforms to the street.
Horodniceanu smiled on Thursday as he predicted straphangers’ reaction to the new station four years from now.
“I think they will do, ‘Wow,’” Horodniceanu said. “It will be a wow effect.”