Muni board member questions speed practices in Twin Peaks Tunnel

Despite the recent derailment of a Muni train in the Twin Peak Tunnel — which still hasn’t been explained — one member of the board that oversees the transit agency is questioning why vehicles aren’t going faster through the underpass.

Before a 2006 derailment — which occurred a few feet away from the latest incident — Muni light rail vehicles averaged a top speed of 50 miles per hour in the tunnel, which connects the Castro station to the West Portal station. However, over the past three years, during which the department has made major renovations to the tunnel, that top speed has been reduced to 35 mph over straight stretches, and 20 mph around a curve in the underground section.

Cameron Beach, who serves on the seven-person board that governs Muni, has repeatedly asked for an explanation for why the top speed hasn’t been restored, and on Tuesday he brought the item up before the department’s Policy and Governance Committee (PAG) meeting.

Muni executive director Nat Ford said the department has hired two separate independent firms to study the speed levels under the tunnel. Ford expressed concern about bottleneck problems at West Portal station if the top speeds are reinstated back to 50 mph.

For now, the top speed remains at 35 mph, although Ford said the department will present a more detailed analysis of the situation at next month’s PAG meeting.

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