The Salesforce Transit Center sits empty after the discovery of a second cracked steel beam on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Citing management failures, city withholds funds for Salesforce Transit Center expansion

A city transportation body voted Tuesday to suspend “all further financial assistance” for work on the Salesforce Transit Center, citing a lack of faith in the project’s leadership.

It is the latest delay to transit center funding, after $200 million was held up by a Board of Supervisors committee last Thursday for clarification purposes. That funding will return for a vote this week at the board.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of the Board of Supervisors, voted unanimously to delay $9.6 million in funds to the Transbay Joint Power Authority until The City can evaluate what led to the discovery last month of cracks in two steel beams, shutting down the newly constructed $2.2 billion transit center.

The transportation authority regularly disburses millions of tax dollars and grant funding used to study future transit projects. The amount held up Tuesday is small in comparison to the overall $6 billion estimated cost of designing a subway for Caltrain and California High Speed Rail to run underneath the transit center, but it is seen as vital for allowing planning efforts on that future expansion project to continue.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said it is vital that The City plans the multi-billion dollar project effectively, making it essential to re-evaluate the transit center’s leadership before the next phase of transit center design begins.

“The right time to get it right is in the beginning,” Peskin said.

Supervisor Katy Tang told Transbay Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Mark Zabaneh that he must restore The City’s faith in his agency.

“From this board at least, or this body, there has been a lack of confidence on a wider scale,” Tang said. “At this time I’d feel comfortable with moving forward with such a resolution until all of us can feel more confident.”

That funding will be stalled until the San Francisco City Controller’s Office conducts an evaluation of the transbay joint powers authority management and transportation authority staff performs a review of “alternative oversight and governance models” to deliver high-speed rail to the transit center. The results of both efforts will be presented to the transportation authority board, when they will vote to reinstate the funding.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, about $200 million for the transit center and surrounding neighborhood was set for approval by the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, but Supervisor Malia Cohen said she wanted more answers before disbursing the money. About $147 million of the fund is set for the transit center, according to city documents, with another $29 million set for streetscape improvements in the neighborhood and $2 million for BART infrastructure improvements.

The Budget and Finance Committee is set to consider the funding again this week.

Funding delays are only the latest woes to beset the joint powers authority, which was sued on October 18 lawsuit by the transit center’s major contractor, who alleges the project was mismanaged, and which stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue due to the transit center’s closure.

Transbay buses have been rerouted to the Temporary Transbay Terminal until the center reopens.

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