A woman crosses at Fremont and Howard streets where the road is closed around the shuttered Salesforce Transit Center after the discovery of a second cracked steel beam on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Who will pay for the Salesforce Transit Center cracked beams? Testing may tell

The jury is still out on who will pay to replace the cracked steel beams at the Salesforce Transit Center.

That’s according to transportation officials, who at a Friday news conference said testing those steel beams may narrow down who the responsible party is.

The $2.2 billion transit center has been closed since last week, along with a block of Fremont Street, after cracks were discovered in two steel beams. Those steel beams were made by Stockton-based Herrick Corp, which also provided the equipment to support the weight of the transit center bus deck.

Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the body overseeing construction of the Salesforce Transit Center, briefed reporters Friday. Zabaneh said the testing will likely narrow down reasons the steel cracked.

“If the test comes back and the material is up to spec and all the welding is done, then the contractor built what we asked them to do,” he said. “You’re basically eliminating fabrication, you’re eliminating welding, then you have to go back to design.”

The question of who will pay for the repairs has been hanging out there for days. Earlier in the week, Zabaneh noted the transit center was still under “warranty,” a fact widely reported in local press. However, on Friday Zabaneh did not definitely say the transit center’s warranty would cover repair costs if a design flaw was found.

When asked by the San Francisco Examiner if the warranty would still cover the transit center if a design flaw was at fault, Zabaneh said “We would have to look and see how that works out.”

Still, he said, any discussion of fault is early and “speculating” until tests are complete, which may take weeks.

On Thursday Mayor London Breed and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf penned a joint letter calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to “assist in evaluating” the cause of those two cracked beams — essentially, they wanted a second opinion.

The TJPA is conducting its own analysis, but in a statement said they welcomed a second set of eyes.

Since the discovery of the two cracked beams, six gigantic, one-story-tall jacks were installed to temporarily support the girders as steel towers are constructed to shore up the cracked beams.

The jacks will be relocated to support the girder at First Street as they are freed up by the construction of the steel towers on Fremont Street, Zabaneh said.

“We have inspected and are continuously monitoring First Street and have found no issues, but because of its similar design to Fremont Street, we think the most prudent course of action is to reinforce First Street as we repair and reinforce Fremont Street,” Zabaneh said.

That work is expected to take until Friday next week, at which point Fremont Street will be reopened to through traffic.

First Street will be closed nightly between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., starting tonight, to remove ceiling panels and relocate the jacks.

There is currently no estimate for when the Transit Center might re-open.

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