NEW YORK - Large steel columns from the fallen twin towers have been found beneath a service road being excavated at ground zero in the search for long-buried Sept. 11 remains, officials said yesterday.

The surprising discovery of World Trade Center steel in the last week raises more questions about what was left at ground zero in the cleanup after the 2001 attacks and how the service road was created in the first place.

The steel, found during a dig for human remains that has yielded nearly 300 bones in the last three months, includes two heavy beams that were stacked horizontally in the landfill, as if moved and placed there, a person with direct knowledge of the discovery told the Associated Press. The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the findings, and insisted on anonymity.

The discovery was confirmed by officials for the city and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the trade center.

The columns are about 18 feet long and weigh perhaps 60 tons each. Officials believe the steel columns, located a week ago just two to three feet below the surface of the road, were deliberately set there at some point during the cleanup, perhaps to stabilize heavy machinery in use at the time.

Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, who is overseeing the search for remains, declined to speculate on how the steel might have ended up where it did.

Digging was halted in the immediate area surrounding the steel columns until the Port Authority removes the steel. The columns will be put into storage at a hangar at Kennedy International Airport, agency spokesman Steve Coleman said yesterday. The hangar stores all sorts of artifacts from the trade center, including what was believed to be the last column removed from the site in May 2002.

The person with knowledge of the discovery told the AP that three connected steel columns that once formed the facade of the trade center were also found below the road. Another column was found on the other end of the trade center site, where the Port Authority is building a retaining wall for three planned office towers, the person said. Unlike the stacked columns, this steel appeared to be burned at one end.

Bush Hears of 9/11 Health-Care Needs

The son of a ground zero rescue worker who died last week from lung disease met with President Bush in New York yesterday to urge expanded health services for

those who are still sick.

"On behalf of all World Trade Center victims," said Ceasar Borja Jr., 21, "I expressed the urgency and the desperate need for financial support for health services."

He said he told the president that the funding should be expanded not just for "the heroes and heroines" who risked their lives to save victims under the twin towers, but also for men, women and children exposed to toxic elements because they lived or worked nearby.

Borja's father, Cesar Borja, was a police officer who worked 14-hour days in the smoldering pit after the Sept. 11 attack. He died at 52 while awaiting a lung transplant.

Sick 9/11 workers and area residents gathered at the edge of ground zero to criticize as inadequate Bush's plan to spend an additional $25 million to fund a healthprogram.

"First responders who need treatment will get the treatment they need," Bush spokesman Tony Snow said yesterday. "Many are already covered by insurance programs, many through their union; but if there are gaps in that, we're going to do it."

- Associated Press