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Market Street project likely to advance after cost concerns allayed

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The Better Market Street project is slated to begin construction in 2022. More than half of the $604 million in funds would go toward improving transit infrastructure. (Cindy Chew/2012 S.F. Examiner)

Supervisor Jane Kim is ready to support the $604 million Better Market Street project when it is up for vote in September, she told the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday.

Kim’s vote is likely to secure the future of the project, as she was the most vocal holdout.

Earlier this month, Kim stalled approvals for $15 million toward the project, citing sticker-shock at the sky high cost for streetscaping. Now, it turns out, much of the $604 million is actually going toward transit improvements.

Kim’s turnaround follows an informational hearing on the project on Tuesday at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board, whose commissioners are the Board of Supervisors.

The Better Market Street project, an effort to transform Market Street into a transit, pedestrian and bike-friendly space, is set for construction in 2022. The multi-agency project encompasses Market Street from Octavia Street to The Embarcadero, and Mission Street to The Embarcadero as well.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and Planning Department Director John Rahaim sought to allay Kim’s fears by explaining what all the money was going to — certainly, staff assured her, millions of dollars were not being spent on a few chairs and new pavement on Market Street.

To Kim’s surprise, much of the $604 million would not go to streetscaping at all, even though that is the thrust of much of Better Market Street’s marketing and public outreach.

About $342 million of the project’s funding would go to transit infrastructure, the bulk of which — $175 million — will go toward replacing power systems for nearby Muni lines on Market Street.

Andrea Glerum, the SFMTA project manager of Better Market Street, explained to Kim that much of its power is generated on Mission Street, and has to be transferred, inefficiently and expensively, to Muni lines on Market Street.

“We power Market Street by running cross lines down the cross streets,” Glerum said. “It’s so inefficient and overly expensive to run our lines this way.”

About $127 million of the project would directly fund streetscaping, according to planning documents.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original version.

(Courtesy sfcta.org)

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