Muni delays work on L-Taraval tracks

The replacement of Muni tracks older than 30 years in front of the West Portal station scheduled for Labor Day weekend has been postponed, according Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch.

The San Francisco Municipal Railway had intended to replace the tracks in front of West Portal over the three-day weekend because “ridership is lowest on the holiday weekends,” Lynch said.

The replacement of the tracks in front of West Portal Station is part of a $6.4 million Muni project that will replace the tracks of the L-Taraval line along Ulloa Street from the West Portal station to Forest Side Avenue. When construction requires a shutdown of the rail, Muni will use buses to serve the area.

Lynch said the “delay is due to the fact that the contractor had difficulty in obtaining” rail materials. Muni is now looking to do the track replacement sometime in October.

Residents say the replacement of the West Portal tracks, which were installed in the 1970s, is long overdue, blaming the track conditions for poor service.

“We’re excited the upgrading of the track is coming. We’re disappointed it’s being delayed,” West Portal resident Tim Colen said.

Colen added, “If it’s symptomatic of more problems, then yikes.”

Lynch said that despite the delay, the project is on schedule to be completed in January 2007, although she added that the project is “dependent upon the weather and availability of construction times to shutdown the rail system at West Portal.”

Bert Hill, of the Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association, said the tracks’ poor condition is the result of neglect. “I feel, in general, there’s been a lack of maintenance in our infrastructure.”

Hill said he did not mind the inevitable disruptions that will result from the project, noting that in the end, the new rail will be better for the neighborhood.

Colen said the current track conditions result in trains emitting a “screeching noise” and having to slow down to make the curves.

Muni has already replaced the track crossover at Ulloa Street. After Muni replaces the track in front of the West Portal station, it will then begin to replace the track from Wawona Street to Forest Side Avenue. Once the new tracks are in, the rail system’s overhead electrical lines will be replaced.

“The MTA will not take steps to move forward with work that will be a major impact to our service and the neighbors until we are fully confident that the disruption will be limited to the planned activities and duration scheduled,” Lynch said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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