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Twin Peaks Tunnel reopens after months of construction, worker fatality

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Muni service connecting West Portal to the Castro District resumed Saturday, after two months of construction in the Twin Peaks Tunnel. (Courtesy SFMTA)

Muni service connecting West Portal to the Castro District resumed Saturday, wrapping up two-months of construction that included seismic upgrades, repairs to the walls and ceilings and rail replacements inside of the 100-year-old Twin Peaks Tunnel.

Construction on the tunnel began on July 25 as part of the Twin Peaks Tunnel Improvement Project, and was headed by Oakland-based Shimmick Construction under a $40 million contract. The tunnel project’s completion is expected in January 2019.

Full service for the K-Ingleside, L-Taraval and M-Ocean Views lines resumed to normal Saturday, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The routes were supplemented with shuttle buses and split service as West Portal and Forest Hill Stations faced closures.

Muni officials said that the NX-Judah Express line is expected to be restored on Monday.

The 2.27 mile-long tunnel carries some 80,000 riders each day, according to the SFMTA. The project included enhancements to its drainage and fire safety systems, as well as the installment of four track crossovers to allow trains to switch tracks during delays.

“We are very thankful to our Muni riders, construction crews, neighbors, operators and” San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency staff,” SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said in a statement. “Your patience and dedication to this project means we all have new tracks and a safer more reliable Twin Peaks Tunnel for everyone to enjoy.”

Construction was temporarily put on hold earlier this month when 51-year-old signal technician Patrick Ricketts was fatally struck by a steel beam near the West Portal end of the tunnel on August 10.

The incident drew criticism over the SFMTA’s contract with Shimmick Construction, which was later revealed to have a history of workplace and safety violations. In November 2016, a worker operating a forklift died after losing control and going into a trench.

The company reportedly did not disclose that it had been previously cited for any serious and willful safety violations by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health in the past 10 years while applying for the Twin Peaks Tunnel job. SFMTA officials have maintained that Shimmick Construction met the requirements to pre-qualify for the bid.

The incident prompted Supervisor Norman Yee to call for a hearing next month to investigate how city contractors are chosen.

The tunnel’s closure also compounded a citywide shortage of some 150 Muni operators that started late last year, causing severe delays as buses were taken off their regular lines to fill the service gaps left by the K, L and M lines.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose previously told the San Francisco Examiner that more than 70 operators who have been driving shuttles during the Twin Peaks Construction will return to their normal routes by the end of the month.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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