Lengthy Central Subway work worries locals, vendors

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerProject: Construction

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerProject: Construction

Muni is pushing ahead with its plan to bring up tunnel-boring equipment through Columbus Avenue in North Beach during Central Subway construction, despite a petition circulating to request a moratorium on the upcoming work and Supervisor David Chiu asking for alternatives.

Merchants and residents are concerned about having construction equipment staged for two years near Washington Square Park as part of the $1.6 billion project. The work, which includes underground utility relocation and building a storage and extraction site for equipment, would require one lane on Columbus to be closed in 2013 and two, on either side of the street, in 2014.

Chiu, a firm supporter of the Central Subway, sent a letter to Muni Director Ed Reiskin this week asking the agency to review other options for extracting the equipment. In the letter, Chiu asked if the equipment could be pulled up piece by piece in a less disruptive way or simply left in the ground until the tunnels are completed.

On Thursday, Reiskin met with merchants and Chiu to discuss the plan. John Golinger, a resident who is leading the petition movement against the work, said Reiskin promised a “pause” to the project following the meeting.

However, Muni spokesman Paul Rose said the project has already been paused and Thursday’s meeting did not change the status of the plan, although a start date for preliminary construction is pending.

The agency will continue to meet with local merchants to address concerns.

Golinger said several merchants are considering litigation if the project does move forward.

“It sounded very clear that there would be a pause, at least temporarily, to the project,” said Golinger. “I really hope there wasn’t a promise made just because it was in the heat of the moment.”

Reiskin said the equipment proposal was approved in 2008 as part of the project’s environmental impact report process.

“Reviewing alternatives to the project would likely require a lot of time and money that we don’t have,” said Reiskin.

The planned construction site would cover a half-block on Columbus in an area where there are no businesses, Reiskin said.

“This will be similar to any other construction work in The City,” said Reiskin. “There are some disruptions, but life goes on during these projects.”

Marc Bruno, who’s part of an organization opposed to the plan, said the project will not only affect Columbus, but also portions of Union Street where there are businesses.

“They’re talking about dusting off windows at area businesses like its no big deal,” said Bruno. “Are they going to dust off the sandwiches at those places too?”


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