An investigation and a repair process are underway at the formerly long-delayed — then surprisingly shuttered because of a steel snafu — bus terminal and rooftop park. Here's what we know for now, besides the fact that "June at the earliest" is the current reopening timeframe.
Once upon a time, the long-delayed, Cesar Pelli-designed building with its elegant, perforated-steel skin and three-block-long public park made a splashy debut. That was in August.
As most everyone knows the Salesforce Transit Center and its rooftop Salesforce Park, a.k.a. the Transbay Terminal, have been indefinitely closed since a crack was found in a steel beam beneath the park on September 25, 2018. The closure caused immediate chaos and downtown gridlock as buses — which had only recently moved their termini from a temporary outdoor terminal a few blocks away — had to be rerouted back to the temporary terminal, and as the section of Fremont Street that passes underneath the terminal building was closed to traffic.
Fremont Street wouldn't reopen for three weeks, causing more of a traffic headache than had previously been created throughout the years of construction on this terminal.
NBC Bay Area just released its findings following a public records request into the shutdown scandal. Emails between construction project managers and officials with the Federal Transit Administration reveal a tense mood back in September, but they don't offer much in the way of evidence in a blame game.
The solution to shoring up the steel beams got underway in early February, and the best promise we've heard so far is that the terminal and the park will reopen in June. But nothing with this building has gone according to plan or schedule, so why should this?
Then there are the back-and-forth lawsuits.
For its part, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), which owns the building, has vowed to get the steel fixes paid for under the two-year warranty for the building, though it's unclear whether general contractor Webcor/Obayashi or steel engineers Skanska USA will be footing the bill.
Ironically, general contractor Webcor/Obayashi already filed suit against the TJPA back in October, alleging breach of contract — something about faulty design documents and needless delays on the part of the TJPA that caused budget overruns.
That lawsuit may be a passing-the-buck extension of another lawsuit the Chronicle reported on in September, dating back to last May, in which Skanska USA is suing Webcor/Obayashi over "substantially defective and incomplete" construction documents. In what seems some prescient foreshadowing of the steel beam debacle, Skanksa said in the suit that the construction document issues made it impossible for them and their subcontractors to "plan and execute the work in such a way as to mitigate damages due to delays and inefficiencies."
ABC 7 has this rather confusing, reverse-chronology running timeline of the entire situation, but at least they are keeping track of all latest developments from the TJPA board meetings.
The latest depressing wrinkle, as the Chronicle noted last week, is that a secondary consequence of Gov. Gavin Newsom's "let's be real" speech about the high-speed rail project is that there's a huge, empty concrete box underneath the new Transit Center that is waiting for the eventual rail connection that was supposed to bring the high-speed line into SF. Without the concrete hope of rails getting built between Merced and Silicon Valley, momentum could be lost on taking the next steps to building the rail link into downtown.
The first step in that process is extending the CalTrain tracks from 22nd and Pennsylvania to an underground tunnel that ultimately reaches the terminal — something that, for now, is estimated to cost $6 billion. The city has so far identified where $1 billion of that funding is coming from.
As optimist Supervisor Aaron Peskin tells the Chronicle, "Our responsibility has always been connecting Santa Clara County to downtown San Francisco by bringing Caltrain to the Transit Center, and we will continue to do that with zeal. Otherwise, we will have built the most expensive bus terminal in the history of humankind."
For at least the next decade (or two), that is exactly what we've got, though, folks.