The price tag for new trackway to swing Muni T-Third line trains back downtown from Mission Bay just went up $1.4 million.
That brings the total cost of the Third Street Light Rail Project Mission Bay Loop to $10.2 million, thanks to the need for construction to install electric cable covering — called a duct bank — for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
The project is intended to bolster service for Warriors and San Francisco Giants games and for the Central Subway to Chinatown by allowing some trains to travel shorter routes instead of all the way to the southeast, according to staff reports from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
Originally conceived in 1998, the plan has had a long road. After a lengthy review processes, the original contract with Mitchell Engineering was set at $3.5 million and approved in 2014 for a grand total of 240 days. But environmental challenges that were eventually denied by courts led the project to be suspended until May 2016. In January, the contract was raised $667,000, and in April it was again increased by $459,000. Both increases were related to delays from the court challenge, according to an SFMTA staff report.
Now, the SFPUC has determined it needs to install a “duct bank,” protection for electic cabling, along Illinois Street between 16th and 23rd streets to provide a power distribution system along the waterfront, requiring an added cost to the SFMTA and SFPUC project. The cost increase will be borne by the SFPUC, according to an SFMTA staff report.
The ever-growing price tag isn’t the only concern with the project.
The loop is also potentially problematic for denizens of the booming Bayview neighborhood, who have as far back as 2013 contended with “switchbacks” of T-Third trains, when Bayview-bound trains would turn around toward downtown before reaching their destination, leaving regular Bayview commuters stranded.
Supervisor Malia Cohen told the San Francisco Examiner “the unreliability of the T-line has been a consistent and, frankly, reasonable complaint of my constituents … I would also like to see fewer switchbacks to ensure that riders in the southeast get the best service to their destination every time they choose public transportation.
SFMTA staff, anticipating this concern, directly addressed switchbacks in its report on the Mission Bay loop.
“Allowing half of the trains on the T-Third line to turn around at the Loop will not affect performance for residents of Hunters Point and those living along the 3rd Street corridor because additional train capacity will be added to the turn-around route as part of the Central Subway Project,” SFMTA staff wrote in a report.
But Jacqueline Flin, executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute San Francisco, which serves all of San Francisco but primarily the Bayview, said the community is wary of Muni’s promises to increase service.
“The point of the T was to get downtown, not just to Warriors games,” she said. The Bayview community needs service for one simple reason, she added.
“We’ve got to get to work.”