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Responsibility for Salesforce Transit Center fix remains an open question

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Six large jacks hold up the weight of the bus deck at the Salesforce Transit Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. The jacks sit atop four steel girders and a wooden mat that will be a part of a shoring system that will be installed so that weight will be completely taken off two cracked steel girders that sit above the bus deck. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Just who will pay to fix cracked steel beams at the Salesforce Transit Center is still an open question, but the cost won’t be covered by a contingency fund set aside for construction errors and fixes, officials said at a City Hall meeting Tuesday.

Dennis Turchon, senior construction manager at the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, said at an authority meeting Tuesday that determining who is financially responsible for the needed fixes will have to wait until a cause is determined.

“The focus,” Tuchon is first and foremost on fixing the transit center, he told reporters.

Most capital projects have a specific budget portioned out for accidents, fixes, and other errors in construction called a “contingency budget.” But when asked if the $2.2 billion transit center’s $103 million contingency budget would cover the repairs, Turchon told the San Francisco Examiner “no.”

“This is not in the (contingency) budget,” he said, meaning the fix may exceed the budget’s allotment. This is not the normal fix a contingency is used for, he said. “This is extraordinary.”

The $2.2 billion transit center has been closed since last week, along with a block of Fremont Street, when cracks were discovered in two steel beams.
Those steel beams were made by Stockton-based Herrick Corp, which also provided the equipment to support the weight of the transit center bus deck.

Six oversized jacks are supporting the cracked beams right now, which will soon be replaced with more long-term support structures at Fremont Street. Officials hope to reopen the street by October 12, officials said.

That’s when a process to sample and test the cracked steel beams will begin, a process that Turchon told the TJPA board would take “up to two weeks.”

When the problems leading to the crack are identified in early November, a permanent fix will be designed, peer reviewed by four experts, and then installed.

Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the TJPA which oversees the transit center, told the TJPA board he called experts personally to invite them on the peer review panel.

“Even though we have a stystem in place that should have caught all these things, obviously it did not,” he told them.

As for the process to find a permanent fix, Zabaneh said “my goal is weeks, not months.”

And while buses and other transit options around the transit center may still be a mess, there’s good news for those who like to take a stroll with a view of skyscrapers.

When Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who is also TJPA board chair, asked Zabaneh when the park atop the Salesforce Transit Center would reopen, Zabaneh said, “Potentially, Mr. Nuru, we would be able to open the park after we get the test results back,” he said. “That would be the first week of November,” he said, adding that the load of people walking atop the center is “not significant” and could be handled by the temporary structures supporting the terminal.

“I think opening the park is a definite possibility,” he said.

Dennis Turchon, senior construction manager for the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, updates the TJPA Board of Directors about the work to shore up two cracked steel beams and reopen the Salesforce Transit Center at a special meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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