Progress slow on Sept. 11 memorial

Although memorials to the Sept. 11 attacks are opening at the Pentagon and in Boston in time for today's seventh anniversary, the first of the steel girders that will support the largest memorial to the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history were only recently lowered into place in New York, marking the long-delayed beginning of construction at the World Trade Center site where nearly 2,800 people were killed.

The National September 11 Memorial, two massive square waterfalls set within the footprints of the Twin Towers, was to have opened next year. Now, officials are aiming to have the memorial ready in time for the 10th anniversary in 2011.

Diane Parks, who lost her son Ryan Fitzgerald in the attacks, is skeptical.

“I see the pictures of what they are going to build, and it looks lovely,” said Parks, who attended a gathering of Sept. 11 family members Wednesday at a hotel near ground zero. “But as I walked here, all I saw was a hole in the ground. It's been exactly a year since I was down here, and I don't see a difference.”

Parks is far from alone in voicing frustration at the slow pace, and the memorial is hardly the only project at ground zero that has languished.

The steel for Freedom Tower, the site's signature skyscraper envisioned as soaring 1,776 feet high, has barely risen about street level, despite the laying of a cornerstone in 2004 and commencement of foundation work in 2006.

And architect Santiago Calatrava's birdlike transportation hub for PATH commuter trains, projected to cost $3.5billion and featuring a two-part roof that was supposed to open like wings, has also not gotten off the ground. To control costs, the Port Authority, the transportation agency that owns ground zero, has decided to build the roof without the equipment that would allow it to open.

With blown deadlines and ballooning cost estimates, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Wednesday for an end to excuses regarding the lack of progress in rebuilding the 16-acre site in lower Manhattan.

“Progress on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center has been frustratingly slow, owing in large part to a multilayered governance structure that has undermined accountability from the get-go,” he wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. “The memorial must be completed by the 10th anniversary. No more excuses, no more delays.”

Port Authority executive director Christopher Ward has vowed to come up with a “clear and achievable” timetable and new cost estimates by the end of the month.