Safety, transit upgrades along Geary Boulevard completed

New connection reunites Japantown, Western Addition

San Francisco leaders on Wednesday announced the completion of the first phase of the Geary Rapid Project, a series of safety and transit improvements along Geary Boulevard involving neighborhoods including the Western Addition, Japantown and the Tenderloin.

The $13 million project broke ground in 2019, bringing numerous upgrades to a 3-mile stretch of Geary Boulevard between Market and Stanyan streets — described by pedestrian advocates as one The City’s most dangerous corridors.

Among the improvements are a new signal and crosswalk at the Geary Boulevard and Buchanan Street intersection to better connect the Fillmore area and Japantown, which were divided by the Geary Expressway and urban renewal redevelopment projects in past decades.

According to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director Jeffrey Tumlin, the new, safer connection can be the “start of healing” for both historic communities.

“The Geary Expressway was intentionally designed to exclude, to separate these neighborhoods from one another,” he said. “This project was designed, in its small way, to help restore the connectivity between Japantown and the Fillmore.”

“Before Geary Boulevard, this was a community of mostly African Americans and Japanese Americans who lived together in harmony,” Mayor London Breed said. “We were community. We were responsible for one another. We looked out and took care of one another and we built bridges and had incredible relationships and when this became, in essence, a freeway, there was a real divide. So, what we’re trying to do in correcting the mistakes of the past is build those bridges and make them stronger, both with the people and the infrastructure.”

Other improvements include new pedestrian signals, curb ramps, countdown signals, longer crosswalk times, and a reduction from four lanes to two general lanes and one transit-only lane in each direction.

There also are 34 new bulb-out sidewalk extensions at corners, many in the Tenderloin, which sees a disproportionate amount of traffic collisions, city officials said. Bulb-outs extend the sidewalk and are meant to help motorists and pedestrians better see each other. Also, 12 transit bulb-outs at bus stops have been added, with the goal of reducing Muni delays.

“These are communities that need more transit, that need better transit and this is a great step forward,” Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said. “The 38-Geary is just one example of what we need to do. We need faster bus service. We need bus rapid transit.”

The 38-Geary and 38-Geary Rapid Muni lines have the most ridership, officials said.

The Geary Rapid Project’s second phase will consist of similar safety and transit improvements along Geary Boulevard, from Stanyan Street to 34th Avenue. Transportation officials are in the design and outreach part of the second phase.

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