Shovels could hit the dirt by 2010 for the Central Subway project since just a few bureaucratic nods are left.
The 1.7-mile-long rail line would zip passengers between the South of Market and Chinatown neighborhoods by 2016 — theoretically relieving the few congested bus routes currently connecting the two busy districts, according to transit officials.
The last big step before breaking ground is the completion of an ongoing federal environmental review, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, Muni spokesman Judson True said.
“Completing the environmental work represents an important milestone in getting the shovel in the dirt,” True said.
Many Chinatown residents, whose main downtown access route is the 30-Stockton, have been demanding the new rail line for years, said Norman Fong, president of the Chinatown Community Development Center.
“This is a community’s dream coming true,” Fong said. “The start of a new beginning [for Chinatown].”
The proposed extension would connect to the T-Third Street light rail and include a stop at Fourth and Brannan streets. The line would run underground at Bryant Street, cross beneath Market Street and end in Chinatown, at Stockton and Jackson streets.
But not everyone agrees with the project.
Activist groups Livable City and San Francisco Tomorrow have lambasted the subway line as money that could be better spent on other transit projects around The City.
BART officials have also expressed concern that the subway could damage its Powell Street station.
Recently, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is proposing the $1.3 billion project, cleared one of the more daunting hurdles when the Planning Commission approved a state-mandated environmental review.
On Tuesday, the SFMTA board of directors will decide whether to approve the state the environmental report that was given the green light by the Planning Commission.