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After repeated delays, Transbay Transit Center contractor promises June completion

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Work on the Transbay Transit Center project will be completed on June 15, though the date for the start of service remains unclear. (Sarahbeth Maney/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A final date for completion of San Francisco’s multi-billion dollar Transbay Transit Center project may have finally arrived, after months of delays and uncertainty.

Jes Pedersen, CEO at Webcor, the company building the project in a joint venture with Obayashi, told the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors last week that work will be completed on June 15.

That date is technically when the work would receive a temporary certificate of occupancy, or TCO, after passing building and fire inspections. However, the final sign off on the work — when it is deemed “substantially complete” — could come days or weeks later.

The date for the start of transit service at the terminal remains unclear, but the expectation is now some time between June 15 and August.

The delays have raised concerns for the board, which is chaired by Public Works director Mohammed Nuru, as transit agencies are trying to prepare for service by training drivers and informing riders.

The multi-story facility, which includes a rooftop park with 600 trees and 16,000 plants as well as restaurants and retailers, will serve as a transit hub for AC Transit, Muni, Greyhound and Amtrak.

This year alone, the completion date has changed multiple times, sliding from March to May then June 1 — and now to June 15.

Salvador Llamas, Chief Operating Officer of AC Transit, said confusion around the opening of the terminal has hampered their preparations.  

“Thus far, the construction completion date continues to be a moving target, has not been realistic and lacks transparency,” Llamas told the board. “This has led to confusion between TJPA and AC Transit staff.”

He said  “we are concerned with the timing of bus operator training.” Training includes use of the terminals bus deck and driving on and off the terminal’s direct connections with the Bay Bridge.

Public Works’ Ron Alameida, the Transbay project manager, told the board that the operations date remains uncertain, but he was committed to have service start during a range of time “that pretty much brackets the June 15 versus the Aug. 12 date.” He said he would meet with operators and finalize a service start date in the coming weeks.

More than 700 construction workers are currently on site building the facility. “We are about 96, 97 percent complete on the project. It is just the last push on it,” Alameida said.

Pedersen said,“We did receive power on Monday, which means we can now start with all the other issues around energizing and bringing up the fire life-safety systems.”

He said they were bringing in 50 more electricians for a total of 150 to be able to make the June 15 date.

Jeff Gee, Vice Chair of the TJPA board, pressed Pedersen on his commitment. “The June 15 date is how reliable? Can we tell everybody we are going to commit to that date so that our retail leasing partners and everyone else can step up? Because the financial consequences just magnify everytime this schedule moves. We need to have a date certain, so how certain is June 15?”

Pedersen responded, “The June 15 TCO date is when it will be life-safety ready. I am not sure what that means for actual use of the facility.”

The date service will begin isn’t the only concern about the project. Residents and businesses have said they are worried the transit hub will attract more homeless persons to the area and called on The City to have a more detailed strategy for housing and services, as the San Francisco Examiner previously reported.

Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, offered one new idea to respond to those concerns. “We are prepared to offer at no cost administrative office space within the Transit Center Security Operation Center for staff with the Homeless Outreach Team,” Zabaneh said, adding that it “will help with timely responses as the community needs.”

The second phase of the transit project, which would extend the current downtown Caltrain service to the terminal, remains in planning stages.

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