The long-delayed, way over-budget Central Subway project connecting SoMa and Chinatown in San Francisco will not be finished construction before the end of the year, as was last promised. Not that any Muni Metro trains are running right now, but of course it won't.
The SFMTA hasn't exactly had a great track record for finishing big projects in the last decade, and the Central Subway has been labeled a boondoggle since before it even broke ground eight years ago. (Don't get me started on the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project — oh, too late.) Now, the transit agency is capping off 2020 with yet another delay announcement: The Central Subway is now aiming for an opening in spring of 2022.
It was September 2019 when we last heard bad news on the project from the SFMTA, and back then in those pre-pandemic days, construction was expected to be completed by the end of 2020, with testing then to occur through the spring and full operation to begin by June 2021. Now, as the agency just announced Thursday, this "transformational transportation project" has been hobbled by COVID-19 and "other complexities" not specified — and apparently we missed a memo because they're saying the last estimate for revenue service was December 2021.
"Before the pandemic, we anticipated that construction would be finished by the end of next month, with customers riding trains at the start of revenue service a year later," the SFMTA says. "Our current projections put the completion of construction this spring and the start of service in the following spring of 2022."
The project, the budget for which ballooned from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion in recent years, has faced complications due to "ongoing design changes throughout the project due to the differing site conditions discovered deep underground." Also, the agency says that the pandemic has hampered the shipment of some materials, and construction was delayed when several crew members were diagnosed with COVID-19.
This also means that the project will go further over budget, they say, "and we are working closely with our construction contractors to get the project completed as safely and prudently as possible."
The far simpler Van Ness BRT project, which did not involve any underground tunnel construction, has itself gotten several years behind schedule. So what was supposed to happen in three years — a couple of dedicated express bus lanes down the center of the boulevard — is now going to take five years as of the current estimate, with buses maybe running by late next year.
Meanwhile, the SFMTA is dealing with the systemic failure of overhead connectors in the Muni light-rail system, which took all the Muni trains out of service just as they were supposed to come back online in late August. By the agency's last estimate, the fixes were possibly going to be complete by December, but no promises were made, and no estimated reopening date for the Muni Metro has been given.
Top photo: The overhead glass canopy and escalators in the nearly complete Yerba Buena/Moscone Center Station. Courtesy of SFMTA