SFMTA approves extra funds for Central Subway at former Pagoda site

The Central Subway project has unearthed another cost increase, and this time it includes a remnant of the 1906 earthquake.

While excavating the former Pagoda Palace site in North Beach, where two tunnel-boring machines will be retrieved, construction crews discovered the foundation of an old Orthodox church destroyed by the tremor.

Removing the foundation — a piece of which was delivered to the church relocated to Van Ness Avenue and Green Street — tacked on about $200,000, according to the project’s program director, John Funghi. Outreach to local businesses for the demolition contract also added to the cost overrun totaling more than half a million dollars.

In response, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board members on Tuesday approved an additional $550,000 in funds to retrieve the machines. In February, when they signed off on a two-year lease to facilitate tunnel construction at the site, 1731 to 1741 Powell St., the estimated budget was $9.15 million.

The Central Subway project to extend the T-Third Street line for 1.7 miles from South of Market to Chinatown was originally projected to cost $647 million, but that estimate has been raised to $1.6 billion. Before community members — and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu’s office — intervened, the machine retrieval would have taken place in the middle of Columbus Avenue near Washington Square Park. The Pagoda site was the alternative.

Some members of the community are pushing to extend the line to Fisherman’s Wharf, but the idea lacks concrete plans and funding.

Gerald Cauthen, a longtime engineer and member of Save Muni, which opposed the entire subway project, called tunneling past the Chinatown subway station through to the Pagoda site “totally ridiculous” and a “leg up” on extending the line to Fisherman’s Wharf before it has been approved.

Funghi agreed “the work that we’re doing now is perfect for that option” to extend the subway to the waterfront. Extraction in North Beach has been in the works since 2006, he said.

Correction: This story was updated Nov. 6 to clarify details on the total budget for the Central Subway and spending on the project so far.

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