Muni Metro upgrades require subway shutdowns

Muni riders should prepare themselves for late-night and weekend shutdowns of the subway system starting this summer.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is doing work in the subway which includes replacing the worn out rail tracks in the Twin Peaks Tunnel, replacing emergency telephones and replacing its outdated radio system.

SFMTA staff said that the transit agency is planning to do all the work at once so it can avoid shutting the subway system multiple times.

Work to replace the emergency phones and radio system will start sometime tentatively in July this year and will require the shutdown of the entire subway system from West Portal to Embarcadero stations every night from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. The SFMTA expects to complete the project by early next year.

Ninety existing blue light emergency telephones will get replaced on station platforms and inside subway tunnels. The transit agency said it will also be adding more emergency telephones near the end of platforms, in tunnels, emergency exits and at high power voltage areas.

The transit agency’s radio system, which dates back to the 1970s, is getting a much-needed upgrade, said Frank Lau, the project manager for the radio replacement project. The analog system is going digital and will provide dispatchers and train operators with more channels to talk to each other especially during subway emergencies and delays, said Lau.

Once the replacement of the emergency telephones and radio system is complete, work will begin on the replacement of the rail tracks in the Twin Peaks tunnel. The rail tracks in the Twin Peaks Tunnel between West Portal and Castro stations were last replaced 40 years ago in 1975.

The 2.27 mile tunnel itself is nearly a hundred years old, opening on Feb. 18, 1918. The tunnel serves three of Muni’s subway lines: K-Ingleside, L-Taraval and M-Oceanview.

The project also includes installing crossover tracks to provide flexibility for trains to move through the subway and making repairs to the tunnel walls and ceilings.

Staff also said there will be seismic upgrades to the unused Eureka Station to protect the station and surrounding neighborhood.

Work is tentatively scheduled sometime early next year and be completed by late spring or summer. The work will require the weekend shutdown of the subway system between West Portal and Castro stations starting from late Friday night to early Monday morning.

The new rail tracks will help move the transit faster in the subway by lifting the current speed restriction of 45 mph, but the transit agency did not indicate how much faster trains would travel.

Full final schedules for all of the above projects have not been determined. The transit agency plans on future public meetings later this year to update Muni riders and residents on construction start dates.

The transit agency is also still deciding whether to use the West Portal parking lot as second staging area for the Twin Peaks Tunnel project. Staff said using parking lot would provide a shorter distance for trucks to carry debris from the tunnel to the lot. The transit agency plans to use the area around Junipero Serra Blvd. as its first staging area to house the rail tracks and gravel.

Funds for the projects are coming from variety of sources including federal grants, local funds, revenue bonds and from the transit agency’s operating budget, according to SFMTA documents.

The total cost of the Twin Peaks Tunnel project is $47 million. The total cost of the blue light emergency telephone replacement project is $9 million. The radio replacement project will cost $86 million, according to SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.

Muni will provide bus shuttle service during the shutdown.

More public meetings are scheduled for Muni riders to learn more about the projects and the future shutdown of the subway:

  • Mar. 26, 6-7:30 p.m., Castro Community Room, 501 Castro St.
  • Mar. 31, 6-7:30 p.m., Gerald Simon Auditorium, 375 Laguna Honda Blvd.