PoliticsSF Bay Area

After 19 years, Van Ness Construction Project Nears Completion!

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Van Ness street, the construction project that lasted a generation, is “near completion” according to MUNI this week, and by ‘near completion’, they mean ‘buses can use it probably some time in 2022’.  Ah, San Francisco…in less than a year you oversaw the planning and construction of over 300 parklets, during a pandemic no less!  But it’s taken nearly 20 years to plan for and build a new bus lane.

 Van Ness BRT project Construction.

To be fair, it was more than just bus lanes, it was replacing the 1800’s-era water main & sewer, along with replacing trees, street lights, and bus stops.  But the 2-mile project was approved by voters in 2003, it was environmentally cleared in 2013, and construction started in 2016.  If it will be finished in 2022 (fingers crossed), that will mean 19 years of planning and building, not to mention over $316 million dollars in budget (expect that number to go up too).

The saddest part of this, other than the small businesses along Van Ness who suffered a complete loss of foot traffic during construction, (some that closed permanently),the next saddest part is that no one in San Francisco is surprised.

The new Central Subway line extension, which is to run between the Caltrain Station at Fourth and King streets to Chinatown, was originally set to open in late 2018.  It’s now scheduled to be opened in 2022…but don’t hold your breath there.  The project is so delayed and overbudget that most San Franciscans have essentially forgotten about its existence.

Central Subway construction Union Square, between O’Farrell and Ellis.  Remember when they delayed the project a year because they installed the wrong train rail? LOL.

To put this in perspective, in the 1930’s  Joseph Strauss and a team of Depression-era workers took 5 years to build the entire Golden Gate Bridge.   In 1974 BART opened across the bay, BART had built over 70 miles of track, underground, above ground, and under the fucking bay, in just over 10 years.

Tutor Perini and their team of contractors broke ground for the 1.7-mile Central Subway Line in 2010, it’s been 11 years, and there’s no real end in site.

Bart employees in the 1970’s. Photo Bart.gov

The Transbay Transit Center opened months behind schedule after the budget for the huge transportation hub had climbed from $1.6 billion to $2.2 billion.  And then remember when it opened…and then started to crack and fall apart?

Salesforce Transportation Center closed for investigation of structural cracks. Photo courtesy of Curbed SF

The structural beams were not up to code, on a public structure meant to support city bus lines.  No big deal. We’ll wait.  Who’s paying for it again?  Oh, it’s a public project?  So it’s too big and complicated to figure out? And the big contractors can never loose money or get fired?   That’s cool. Business as usual in San Francisco.

But back to the ‘Van Ness Improvement Project’, SFMUNI announced this week that, “construction is projected to be finished by the end of this year, with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service running on Van Ness Avenue from Mission to Lombard beginning in early 2022.”

Keep dreaming San Francisco, we could have a whole mile of new bus lane by 2022!

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor here at Broke-Ass Stuart. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife (not so much nightlife anymore).

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  1. x
    April 22, 2021 at 12:07 pm — Reply

    And the big contractors can never loose money or get fired?


  2. Mathias
    April 23, 2021 at 11:42 am — Reply

    I cannot fathom how any Project Manager or City Govt official could still be employed with a dismal track record of consistent cost overruns and delays. As you mentioned in this piece, initial estimates of planned cost/time were SO out of sync with actuals for not one, but all of the major projects in this city. We need to change this…

  3. Edward Ranchigoda
    April 30, 2021 at 8:32 am — Reply

    Great write up but where are the comments or quotes from anyone responsible for this mess?

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