Deal reached on restarting 9/11 museum construction

(CBS News) NEW YORK - Tri-State Area officials announced an agreement Monday that will lead to the completion of the Sept. 11 museum.

Political squabbling had brought construction of the museum on the site of ground zero in Manhattan to a screeching halt. Now, digging will soon resume after N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hashed out their differences, reports CBS Station WCBS.

The fountains that flow in the footprints of the twin towers have drawn more than 4.6 million people in the year since they've been open. But the memorial was to also feature a museum honoring the attack's nearly 3,000 victims, originally promised by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to be opened in 2009. Then delays pushed it to today. But the doors remain closed.

"It's been frustrating and painful for victims' families," Monica Reedman, who lost her husband, Michael Iken in the attack, told CBS News.

Cuomo said the agreement between the Port Authority and the foundation that controls the National September 11 Memorial & Museum was reached late Monday.

"By ensuring that no additional public funds are spent to complete the Memorial and Museum, today's agreement puts in place a critical and long overdue safeguard to finally protect tollpayers and taxpayers from bearing further costs, and, at the same time, put the project on a path for completion," Cuomo said in a statement released Monday night.

The Port Authority owns the World Trade Center site. The museum was once scheduled to open this year. Work slowed late last year when subcontractors at the site stopped getting paid.

(To watch Jim Axelrod's "CBS This Morning" report click on the video player above.)

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Construction on the museum will begin at the end of the month, according to Mayor Bloomberg.

"Were going to build a museum that is really important to the families of the 9/11 victims and to all of those that contributed photos and mementos and trying to preserve the memories of those they loved that are no longer here," Bloomberg told reporters, including WCBS's Sean Hennessey.

Meanwhile, Tuesday's anniversary will mark the first time elected officials will not be included in the reading of the victims' names, but politicians are still invited to attend remembrance ceremonies.

"It's a very solemn day tomorrow, and the message I guess is your heart goes out to the families, but for those of us that didn't lose anybody, we've just got to make sure that we educate the next generation so this does not happen again," Mayor Bloomberg said.

Spokesmen for Cuomo and Christie said the governors were fine with the decision made by the memorial organizers to exclude politicians from Tuesday's ceremony.

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The museum, built beneath the memorial's trees and reflecting pools, is nearly complete. The ornate entrance, and main exhibition halls are ready to go. But a funding dispute between the foundation and the Port Authority - the agency in charge of construction - has left the museum unfinished and at least a year away from opening, at best.

"It's about, do we have the money now to finish where we are, and do we have a plan in place to ensure that the museum can be sustainable financially going forward," said Scott Rechler, vice chairman of the Port Authority.

The annual cost of operating the memorial and museum is pegged at $60 million - that includes extra security and fountain maintenance. By comparison, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor costs $3.4 million to run . . . Arlington National Cemetary, $45 million.

Two months ago, hundreds of victims' relatives wrote a letter to the Governors of New York and New Jersey (who jointly oversee the Port Authority), calling the halted work "a betrayal of those who died on 9/11."

Those words seem to have resonated. Late last night - at the 11th hour, so to speak - an agreement between New York's Mayor and the Governors of New York and New Jersey put an end to the stalemate, said Jim Axelrod.

(To watch Axelrod's "CBS This Morning" report click on the video player above.)

Bloomberg said there will still be fundraising to do and the project will take as long as necessary to complete.

"Our first concern is safety, our second concern is making sure we do it right so that this museum is the same quality as the memorial and will be around for many generations," Bloomberg said. "Our third concern is that we do it as affordably as possible and then and only then do we worry about a date."