Supes OK ‘hell of a lot of money’ for BART canopies

Costly structures expected to protect costly new escalators at station entrances, increase security.

Despite raising concerns last week over the “hell of a lot of money” needed to install BART escalator canopies along Market Street, a Board of Supervisors committee advanced the project toward approval Wednesday.

The full board will vote Tuesday on the $91.3 million, seven-year project to install 21 canopies, about $4.5 million per canopy. The cost includes the two that were already installed as a pilot at the entrances to Civic Center and Powell Street stations.

About half the money, $46.3 million, comes from BART and the other half, $45 million, from a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s voter-approved bond. The two transit agencies share the stations.

The price tag raised concerns from the board’s Budget and Finance Committee last week. But on Wednesday, the committee approved the project after BART officials privately briefed board members on the details prior to the vote.

“It’s a little complicated and it is a hell of a lot of money,” said Supervisor Sandra Fewer, chair of the committee.

Tim Chan, BART’s group manager for station planning, said that state code requires the agency to protect the new escalators they are installing under the $96.5 million Market Street Escalators Renovation Project, which will result in 41 replaced escalators in downtown San Francisco.

“Any delays to the canopy project is going to significantly impact the overall project cost,” Chan told the committee. “Not just for the canopy project but also for the escalator project, because they have to be constructed in tandem.”

The seemingly high price tag was attributable to the market conditions and the specialized design as well as other needs like the hiring of police officers for security during construction, BART officials said.

Chan said that the canopies will “provide safety for BART and Muni patrons as well as to our employees who have to open and close early in the morning and late at night.”

Currently, the station entrance gates are located at the base of the escalators and stairs, leaving them exposed to the public and weather. The new structures include gates that lock at the street level along with LED lighting and security cameras.

“It protects our escalator equipment from weather and human waste,” Chan said, noting that a canopy at Oakland’s 19th Street Station produced “an 80 percent improvement on the operational reliability.”

BART estimates each canopy will cost $3.3 million in construction costs and $1.2 million in soft costs, such as design and project management.

Chan said the cost estimates were based on experience from past pilot projects and accounted for the market conditions. However, BART will know the exact cost when it puts the project out for competitive bidding.

“The construction climate, the market conditions for all major public works construction projects are astronomical,” Chan said. “We are dealing with a lot of factors that are driving up costs annually.”

BART board president and former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty spoke in support of the canopy project. He said that it is a part of the transit agency’s focus on improving station conditions and boosting ridership.

“There is true religion at BART about the importance of cleanliness,” Dufty said.

He said that “there is a very much a changing culture as we grapple with the societal issues that have really affected us.”

“We have not lost ridership on our weekdays, but on evenings and weekends we are losing a lot of riders,” Dufty added.

The full board will vote on the funding next week.

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