$2.2 billion Salesforce Transit Center closes after crack found in steel beam

Safety concerns led to the closure of the newly opened $2.2 billion Salesforce Transit Center Tuesday after workers discovered a crack in a steel beam that supports the center’s rooftop garden.

A crew working on the ceiling of the bus deck above Fremont Street found the fissure in the 6-foot, 6-inch beam at around 10 a.m. and immediately called for the contractor and structural engineers to inspect it, according to Transbay Joint Power Authority Executive Director Mark Zabaneh.

Zabaneh said the TJPA closed the transit center “out of an abundance of caution” shortly before the 5 p.m. rush hour as streets in the area filled with thousands of commuters and attendees of the first day of the Dreamforce tech conference.

“We realize it’s going to be cumbersome and difficult for the travelling public with such a short notice, but it’s a safety issue and safety is number one for us,” Zabaneh said at an evening press conference soon after the closure.

SEE RELATED: Buses to take center stage at Salesforce Transit Center debut

Zabaneh said inspectors had not determined the cause of the crack.

“The beam is cracked so the behavior of the beam right now is unpredictable,” Zabaneh said. “And that’s why our engineers are cautious and want us to close the area.”

Workers are expected to inspect steel beams throughout the structure overnight and through Wednesday morning, according to Zabaneh. Commuters should catch buses at a temporary terminal at Howard and Main streets.

Safety concerns also prompted police to temporarily close Beale Street between Mission and Howard streets and Fremont between Mission and Howard streets in the late afternoon and at least part of the evening.

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the crack in the steel beam.

The discovery comes just a month after the opening of the long-awaited transit center, which some have dubbed the “Grand Central Station of the West.” The crack is only the latest in a series of setbacks in recent years.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin previously described the project as being rife with “massive cost overruns and delays.”

The project was estimated to cost more than $1.1 billion when construction began in 2008. But costs ballooned to upward of $2.2 billion “due to numerous errors,” according to a 2016 report from Budget Analyst Harvey Rose.

The total project cost is expected to rise to $4.2 billion when rail service is introduced to the transit center. Transit officials just this month approved a plan to provide the rail service by 2027.

SEE RELATED: Downtown rail extension route to Salesforce Transit Center wins approval

There has also been a back-and-forth of accusations between the TJPA and the developers of the adjacent Millennium Tower over the tower sinking and tilting.

But Zabenah said based on an initial assessment of the crack, it was not related to problems with the Millennium Tower.

“We don’t see a nexus,” he said.

Zabenah said the beam was last inspected after installation around a year ago.

“Beams are inspected before they arrive at the job site,” Zabenah said. “Beams are inspected after installation and we have a very rigorous inspection process.”

Department of Building Inspection Director Tom Hui told reporters that city inspectors are not currently looking at the crack but will “eventually provide support” to the TJPA to “make sure everything is done right.”

Transit center officials are expected to update the public on the situation by noon Wednesday.

Picture 1 of 24

Activity at Salesforce Transit Center slows to almost nothing during a closure after the discovery of a cracked steel beam on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)




S.F. Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this report.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Michael Barba
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