Van Ness BRT construction impact set to increase

If you think street construction on Van Ness Avenue is bad now, it’s about to get worse, says The City’s top transit official.

The $316 million Van Ness Improvement Project has seen Van Ness Avenue torn up to craft a new bus rapid transit system featuring buses that will run in separate lanes like trains, using center medians like train stops. But the project isn’t just about buses, as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is also conducting major utility repair.

That work is entering its second sub-phase in July, announced Ed Reiskin, director of transportation at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, on Tuesday.

The shift to underground utility work means that “folks will see more street space taken up by construction,” Reiskin warned the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday.

“It is pretty disruptive,” Reiskin said.

This utility phase includes replacing 22,000 feet of 1800s-era water mains, earthquake resiliency construction, installing new streetlights and more, according to the SFMTA.

Though Reiskin warned the SFMTA board of a rocky road ahead for Van Ness, he added “the expansion of the work zones is a good sign — it means work is progressing.” Progress is likely especially welcome in light of previously announced construction delays of five months and one year, which the San Francisco Examiner first revealed in April.

At the time, SFMTA project manager Peter Gabancho detailed growing problems encountered as crews dug up Van Ness Avenue to the Board of Supervisors. Crews found century-old gas pipes not detailed on any city maps that must be carefully tested and reviewed, which contributed to the project’s delays, he said.

Gabancho said that some radar technology may help more in the future, but for now, crews must move slowly for safety reasons. SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato previously said crews had to sometimes dig “by hand.”

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
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