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Central Subway Project progresses despite completion setbacks

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will not commit to an opening date for its $1.6 billion Central Subway Project until the transit agency’s new program director has the opportunity to assess the project’s status.

After a media tour of the Union Square station Thursday, reporters asked SFMTA’s Interim Director of Transportation Tom Maguire when the subway is expected to open.

Maguire said:

“I don’t want to specifically commit to a date here. Any date that I throw out now, I don’t think we’ll have thoroughly researched.”

The 1.7-mile subway project, which will expand the T-Third rail line to the South of Market, Union Square and end in Chinatown, is already a year behind schedule. When construction began in 2010, it was expected the project would be completed by December of last year.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Central Subway Program Director Nadeem Tahir, left, and SFMTA Acting Director of Transportation Tom Maguire, right, speak to the press following a tour of the Muni Union Square station in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, July 25, 2019.

Transit officials have insisted the work would be completed by the end of this year, but now await the program director’s report.

The SFMTA recently brought Nadeem Tahir on board as the agency’s project program director, as previously reported by SFBay.

Tahir has worked on a number of rail projects nationwide, including in Washington D.C., and has served as the Federal Transit Administration program director overseeing transit projects in California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.

Maguire said the transit agency will have more clear direction and can estimate an opening date once Tahir completes his report.

Tahir said he will look at what has completed so far, what still needs to be done and what complications exist for work that remains.

Tahir said:

“I feel like I can bring this bring project to a good conclusion.”

Tahir will has six weeks to complete his assessment and report back to the transit agency, according to Maguire.

Another hiccup in the project, as stated in an independent federal monitor report, stems from a tense relationship and claim disputes between the SFMTA and the main contractor, Tutor Perini.

The report warns that if the “challenging relationship” continues, the revenue service date could go past May of next year.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Construction crew members walk through a pathway inside the Muni Union Square station in San Francisco, Calif., on July 25, 2019

Maguire said due to the complexity and nature of the project, there are bound to be conflicts.

The report also said that additional contingency funds would be needed to complete the project, but Maguire suggested the report does not represent the whole picture.

While the transit agency reassesses a completion timeline, merchants, especially those in Chinatown, are worried that more delays will impact their businesses.

Maguire said while underground work will continue, construction on the surface level of Stockton Street will be cleared out by fall:

“We know it’s not easy for them. They’re going to have a street that is clean and free of construction with partial limited debris by this fall.”

Meanwhile, reporters toured progress at the Union Square station’s concourse level. Construction crews were still working on escalators that lead to the subway platform, elevators and stairs.

Maguire said:

“People don’t realize that underneath Stockton Street there are hundreds of people working every day to build a new subway that will connect South of Market to Union Square and Chinatown.”

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  1. pickles94114 says:

    …and hundreds of people aboveground still wondering why we’d want a subway to connect South of Market to Chinatown

    1. @pickles94114 – The only thing to wonder about is why it stops in Chinatown, when we voted to continue it further north almost 30 years ago.

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