Downtown BART station escalators may soon gain needed protection to prevent their notoriously frequent breakdowns.
The BART Board of Directors on Thursday will consider approving $71 million to build 22 canopies above escalators at Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell Street and Civic Center BART stations.
San Francisco supervisors balked at the price tag last year, with Supervisor Sandra Fewer bemoaning it as “a hell of a lot of money,” but eventually approved funding for the $91.3 million project in July last year.
An escalator renovation project, a companion effort to the canopy project, was also approved by the BART board in March 2019 and will replace 41 escalators at Embarcadero, Montgomery Street, Powell Street and Civic Center stations.
BART paid for half of the canopy project, while the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency paid the other half through bond funding, which required final approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
There are three bidders on the canopy project, including Shimmick Construction Company, of Oakland, Thompson Builders Corporation of Novato and Plan Construction of San Francisco. Shimmick, which worked on the Twin Peaks Tunnel project and was fined $65,000 by state regulators over the death of a worker, was the lowest bidder, estimating the project to come in at $71 million, making them the BART staff choice for board approval.
Escalators at those stations — among the busies in BART’s system — are frequently out of service. As of Monday, for example, days before the BART Board of Directors meeting, an escalator was out of service at Montgomery Street station for “major repair,” according to BART’s escalator status website.
Part of the reason for that is the escalators’ exposure to the elements, BART staff have argued. But with canopies in place protecting them, those escalators may be in service more frequently.
A canopy installed at 19th Street Oakland BART station has reduced escalator downtime by about 30 percent, according to BART.
That’s why even though the canopies sound like a big spend upfront, BART Board of Directors member Bevan Dufty, who represents San Francisco on the board, argued it will save money down the line. With the escalators protected from the elements BART will have to spend less on escalator repair and replacement.
“From a preventative maintenance standpoint, we keep our escalators in service and they’ll wear down less so they’ll have longer life.,” Dufty said.
Additionally, the canopies also make it possible to lock the doors on BART stations at the top of the stairwell, instead of the bottom, and prevent people from sleeping in the stairwells overnight.
The BART Board of Directors will vote on the station canopies at their Thursday meeting.