Work on the Central Subway project has encountered delays that appear to have pushed its likely completion date into the next year. (Courtesy SFMTA)

Project manager: Central Subway opening delayed from 2019 to 2020

Agency says it still targeting December 2019 but acknowledges “risks” in schedule

The expected opening date for the $1.6 billion Central Subway appears to have been pushed into next year.

A San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency progress report to the Federal Transit Administration, finalized in late March and signed by the Central Subway’s acting program director, Albert Hoe, shows a new predicted opening date of February 2020, rather than December of 2019.

While only a two-month slip, this is not the first delay: Trains were initially expected to roll down the Central Subway’s tracks from South of Market to the heart of Chinatown by December of 2018, before that date was pushed to December 2019. That rollback occurred after construction delays mounted in Chinatown, impacting merchants there, and a subcontractor laid 3.2 miles of the wrong kind of steel track.

Now SFMTA is bracing for another delay. The agency pinned the problem on its contractor, Tutor Perini Corporation.

“Delays at (Chinatown Station) Headhouse Concourse level slab and shotcrete application at Platform Level impacted the project completion,” reads the report to the federal government. Shotcrete is pre-mixed concrete shot out of a hose. The report concludes, “This impact would have to be mitigated in the field by (Tutor Perini Corporation) increasing the number of crews assigned to electrical work.”

Based on those “assumptions,” SFMTA project staff wrote, the new “revenue service date,” the technical term for when the trains will start running, is forecasted to be in late February next year.

In a statement, SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato said the agency is still targeting December 2019 for the launch of Central Subway service for Muni riders.

However, she added, “as there have always been, there are risks to achieving this schedule.”

An independent monitor assigned by the federal government to evaluate Central Subway’s progress, a normal procedure, warned in March that the subway’s debut date may slip to as late as mid-2020 as SFMTA wars with Tutor Perini over “change orders.” These orders dictate changes to design or construction and have recently piled up on the Central Subway project, the independent monitor warned.

The monitor’s projected revenue service date may slip even more, the monitor warned.

“It is the (oversight contractor’s) opinion, if SFMTA does not resolve the challenging relationship issues with (Tutor Perini) by the first quarter of 2019, the RSD (Revenue Service Date) may go beyond the current proposed (federal) extension date of May 26, 2020,” the oversight contractor wrote, which the Examiner previously reported.

While SFMTA pinned much of its woes on contractor struggles, Tutor Perini shot back in an Examiner opinion piece earlier this month.

When reached for updated comment on this story, Tutor Perini said their opinion piece would suffice for comment.

“The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is responsible for the delays and cost overruns on the Central Subway Project (Project), not Tutor Perini,” a company spokesperson wrote.

Tutor Perini alleged SFMTA made various “design errors” in the project, and “misled” the independent monitor.

However, Ron Tutor, CEO of Tutor Perini, also has a reputation in California for requiring many change orders on projects, which are known to inflate project costs, according to various news reports from across the state. That reputation earned him the nickname the “Change-Order Artist” from the late Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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