People walk near a Market Street canopy entrance at the Powell Street BART Station. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supes suffer sticker shock over cost of BART’s ‘fancy tents’ to cover escalators

Market Street canopy project to total $91.3M, with around half coming from city transportation bond

Members of the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday questioned the high price tag on a plan to place costly canopies over transit station escalators along Market Street.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee put the brakes Wednesday on funding for the $91.3 million BART project, which would install entrance canopies that include gates that lock, to get more information.

About half of that cost, or $45 million, would come from a 2014 voter-approved $500 million San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency bond for transportation infrastructure.

A budget analyst report shows that the total project cost includes two piloted canopies that were already installed in November 2018 at Powell and Civic Center station, as well as 19 additional canopies over other Market Street station entrances. The SFMTA and BART jointly use and operate four stations along Market Street, the Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell and Civic Center stations.

“Looking at this I was just struck by the price tag, $90 million for canopies,” Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said. “I think it is a total of 21. That breaks down to something like in the neighborhood of $5 million for a fancy tent it seems like. Why is it so expensive to build these canopies?”

Mark Dana, the canopy project manager for BART, said that the factors elevating the cost of the project include market conditions and cost of materials.

“It’s harder to get contractors interested in public works projects right now,” Dana said. “We are getting less proposals on our contracts,” Dana said. “The cost estimates that our consultants are providing are showing that the price is increasing overall for all materials and for the services that we are obtaining.”

The canopy project coincides with the agency’s plan to replace and install 41 escalators at the four BART and Muni stations along Market Street in downtown San Francisco.

Dana said that “code requires that we protect the investment of an escalator.” The canopies are supposed to reduce the breakdowns of the escalators, but also serve to secure stations.

“Along with protecting the new escalators from rain and debris, the canopies would add station security by using gates that would lock when the stations are closed,” the budget analyst report said. “Canopies would also include a digital display showing real-time train arrival times, as well as LED lighting and security cameras.”

Dana said that San Francisco’s structures “are a specialized canopy.”

“If you’ve seen the two pilot canopies that we constructed, the ceiling is kind of like a floating cloud. It is a design that we worked with the city developing,” Dana said. “They are a little different than the ones that are being provided in Berkeley and Oakland, a little bit more costly.”

Upon the suggestion of Supervisor Sandra Fewer, who chairs the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, a vote on the proposal was continued until next week.

‘“This is such a hefty amount of money that actually I would like to get more information on this,” Fewer said.

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