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City investigated steel track on another project laid by Central Subway contractor

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A San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency contractor who laid steel tracks in the Central Subway project that the agency now says are not up to standard is also working on the Twin Peaks Tunnel and other city projects. (Examiner file photo)

The same contractor who transportation officials claim laid 3.2 miles of the wrong type of steel track in the Central Subway, Con-Quest Contractors, Inc., had its previous trackwork investigated by The City.

And Con-Quest has other open contracts with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, including replacing tracks in the century-old Twin Peaks Tunnel this summer.

City officials said the $1.6 billion Central Subway project could be delayed at least another month because contractor Tutor Perini and its subcontractor, Con-Quest Contractors, Inc., laid 17,000 linear feet of “standard” steel. The SFMTA said the project instead called for high-strength steel, according to an email first reported by the San Francisco Examiner. Tutor Perini and Con-Quest denied The City’s claims and said it could cost $2.6 million to replace the tracks.

Yet this is not the only project Con-Quest has worked on that the SFMTA has called into question.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin told the San Francisco Examiner Tuesday that the agency also inspected track Con-Quest installed at the Muni Metro East yard, a Muni railyard, in February.

“It was the same issue,” Reiskin said, as the Central Subway allegations: SFMTA suspected Con-Quest had installed standard-strength rail at one of its Muni railyards, when the $4.1 million contract called for high-strength rail instead. High-strength rail lasts longer before maintenance is required, according to the SFMTA.

Ultimately, however, SFMTA determined the track Con-Quest laid down was “not out of spec rail,” Reiskin said. “We believed that they were, then found they were not.”

At the SFMTA Board of Directors, a member of the public called on the SFMTA to inspect other trackway laid by Con-Quest.

“I’m wondering if the rail to be laid in the Twin Peaks tunnel meets these specifications in the contract,” said San Franciscan David Pilpel, in public comment to the board and Reiskin. “Was that high strength rail? Standard strength rail? Is that the rail sitting along Junipero Serra for two years, rusting?”

Con-Quest and Shimmick Construction were awarded a joint contract for $40 million in February to rehabilitate the Twin Peaks Tunnel, according to SFMTA documents. Con-Quest also was awarded a $2 million contract to create traffic circles along the 5-Fulton bus line and an open-ended, $3 million contract to make numerous small repairs at SFMTA, including but not limited to subway platform lighting, NextMuni displays at bus shelters, rail work at the Green railyard, cable work at Van Ness Station, and more.

Outside the SFMTA board meeting, Reiskin said the issue at Central Subway did not call for the agency to inspect Con-Quest’s other repair work.

“I don’t know enough to tell you this is an issue with a specific contractor,” Reiskin said. “If it turns out the rail we have at Central Subway is not at spec, there are probably a number of failures that contributed to getting to this point.”

SFMTA documents obtained by the Examiner showed the agency rebuffed efforts by contractors to purchase standard strength rail in January 2015. Staff at the agency then said it is “SFMTA’s intent to issue a joint check” for standard strength rail in November 2015, as the Examiner previously reported. Reiskin touted a change in quality control methods earlier this year as key to stop other allegedly wrong installations. Rail inspections and other inspections used to be at the contractor’s behest he said, and now those inspections are led by SFMTA itself.

“We’re confident everything else we have planned is compliant,” Reiskin said.

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