Friday, April 1: As part of an $809 million program to revamp the PATH system, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that it has awarded Kawasaki Rail Car a $499 million contract to replace its fleet of PATH trains connecting New York and New Jersey, the New York Times reported.
The new fleet is expected to significantly improve the PATH's reliability when it goes into service between late 2008 and 2011. According to Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia, Kawasaki has guaranteed that each car will travel an average of 160,000 miles between breakdowns and that the cars will be more comfortable and easier to clean, the paper said.
The contract, which calls for the creation of 340 new train cars, is the single biggest investment in the PATH system since its creation in the 1960s. The cars in the PATH's current fleet have an average age of 33 years -- the oldest of any heavy rail line in the country -- and together they carry about 200,000 riders each weekday, the Times added.
Wednesday, April 6: According to a draft final report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the design of the staircases and the fireproofing in the Twin Towers, as well as the lack of communication between rescue workers, significantly impacted the survival rate of the 9/11 attacks, the New York Times and Associated Press reported.
After more than two years of research, the federal team of NIST investigators found that the staircases, built in the center of the Twin Towers, were surrounded only by lightweight drywall, which immediately crumbled during the attacks. According to the NIST, sturdier walls located at different intervals could have better sustained damage and therefore would have provided an increased opportunity to escape, the Times said.
Given that the buildings were created with fewer staircases than required by major building codes in the country, the NIST concluded that the lack of intact staircases remaining after the initial attacks, coupled with the finding that each average survivor took more than double the time estimated to descend emergency stairwells, greatly impacted the rate of survival, the paper explained.
While NIST findings also show that a combination of factors contributed to the actual collapse of the towers, the planes' impact when they collided with the towers most significantly comprised the structure by severing or damaging nine of the 47 columns in the core of the north tower and 11 in the south tower. Due to inadequate and dislodged fire proofing, floors of the buildings were quickly weakened by fire, causing their exterior support columns to bow inwards. As the columns grew unstable, they caused the load of the buildings to shift and the towers to ultimately collapse, the Times said.
The recent NIST findings are just one component of the overall federal investigation into the collapse of the WTC towers, which seeks to determine what factors contributed to the buildings' collapse, as well as provide recommendations for new building and safety codes nationwide. Federal officials plan to release the 10,000-page report later this spring, the Times added.