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Supervisor stalls $15M for Market Street safety project, citing concerns

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Pedestrians cross Market Street at Powell Street Wednesday, March 16, 2016 (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

A San Francisco supervisor is calling into question a seven-year-long planning process to transform Market Street, which may stall funding for that project.

At the urging of Supervisor Jane Kim, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board voted Tuesday to withhold $15 million toward the redesign of Market Street. The authority board is chaired by members of the Board of Supervisors.

“I have heard about this project since I started on this board,” Kim told Public Works and transportation authority staffers, who presented the project. Kim began serving in 2011.

Kim called into question what she said has been $6 million spent over the course of a seven-year planning process, in which time few changes to Market Street had been made as part of that process.

“I feel like there’s been no outcome,” she said.

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The Better Market Street Project is a multi-agency effort to transform Market Street into a transit, pedestrian and bike-friendly space and is slated to begin construction in 2022, according to the project’s planning documents. The project spans Market Street from Octavia Street to the Embarcadero, and Mission Street to the Embarcadero as well.

The total project cost may be $600 million, depending on the final design chosen, according to transportation authority documents.

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The project’s planning documents show wider bike lanes, wider sidewalks, “streetlife hubs” with seats and furnishings for pedestrians and more prominent transit concrete boarding islands in the works for the busy corridor. In 2015, as part of a related project, Safer Market Street, The City restricted turns onto Market Street.

The transportation authority board was set to disburse $15 million in federal grants toward the project at the authority’s Tuesday meeting until Kim voiced her concerns.

It’s the many collaborators on the project that may have been the source of the delay, said Public Works staffer Simon Bertrang.

Those agencies include Public Works, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the transportation authority and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

The project design staffers “have shown you a few weeks ago is the only design the agencies have been able to coalesce around,” Bertrang told Kim, when asked to explain the project’s lengthy planning process.

He added, “For the first time we have consensus from city agencies around an idea that might be worth spending hundreds of millions of dollars on moving forward.”

Kim requested Bertrang and other staff come back to the SFCTA at a future date to present the timeline of the project, which may occur at the authority’s July 25 meeting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated from its original version.

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