Van Ness BRT nets $75 million in federal grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration announced Tuesday it has awarded the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency $75 million in grants for the The City’s first bus rapid transit system.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that he and President Barack Obama’s administration were  glad to partner with San Francisco to bring more reliable public transit service to The City:

“This new BRT line will provide a convenient connection to the Muni light rail system, and it will improve access to jobs, health care, and opportunity throughout the Bay Area.”

SFMTA officials said approximately $45 million will come from the FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program and $30 million from the Bus and Facilities program.

FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers said in a statement that there was clear need in The City for better alternatives that driving in congested roads:

“For many of the residents in this corridor who rely on public transportation, the Van Ness BRT will reduce transit travel times, improve transit service reliability, and provide a more enjoyable ride.”

The total cost of the project is $316.4 million. Other federal, state and local funds will fund the rest of the project, according SFMTA documents.

The Van Ness Improvement Project includes a dedicated center red transit-only lanes for Muni and Golden Gate Transit buses along the two-mile stretch of Van Ness Avenue from Mission to Lombard streets that will separate buses from traffic allowing for more reliable Muni service and less travel time for passengers, according to the SFMTA.

Nine new center boarding islands and low-floor buses for faster boarding are also part of the project.

Construction along Van Ness Avenue has already begun with a number of traffic restrictions already taking effect including prohibiting most left turns and travel lanes reducing from three to two lanes, the SFMTA said.

The first phase of the project includes replacing the underground water system on Van Ness Avenue and overhauling the San Francisco Fire Department’s emergency firefighting water system

Once crews complete the road work and utility, crews will begin building out the bus rapid transit system.

Beside building the red center transit-only lanes and new stations, crews will replace aging overhead Muni bus wires, install new landscaping, repave Van Ness Avenue, and extend sidewalks and crosswalks to improve safety.

SFMTA’s Board of Directors Chairman Tom Nolan said in a statement:

“The Van Ness Improvement Project will improve Van Ness from the sewers below ground, to decreasing transit travel time above ground.”

Nolan added:

“This grant is another key milestone towards realizing a better, safer Van Ness for people who ride, drive and walk along this busy corridor.”

The SFMTA still expects to complete the project in 2019 and open for service by 2020.