Transbay Terminal designers getting paid for first time since cracks found in steel beam

For the first time since a cracked steel beam was found at the Salesforce Transit Center, contractors will be paid for their work there, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Pelli Clark Pelli, the architectural firm behind the transit center, is slated to be paid roughly $5 million by the transit center’s governing authority, according to public documents.

Payments for design and construction work at the $2.2 billion transit center from the Transbay Joint Powers Authority largely stopped after the cracked beam was discovered in September last year as transit center officials sought to determine the cause of the defect.

Mark Zabaneh, executive director of that transbay authority, confirmed the payment.

“No one has been paid for their effort to-date since the issues were found last year,” Zabaneh told the Examiner.

But at a cost review committee of the transbay authority Tuesday afternoon, transit center officials sought review for payments to Pelli Clark Pelli. Within “weeks,” Zabaneh said, the firm will be paid $2 million after conducting building-wide reviews in the wake of the cracked steel beam, and $3 million for work on art installations, ceiling panels, bus ramps, and other work not related to the cracked steel beams.

Ron Alameida, director of design and construction for the transit center, argued to the cost review committee that independent review by LPI, Incorporated determined the steel girder cracks resulted from “the failure to properly install Weld Access Holes” — a construction team problem, not a design problem. And since the design team had essentially been cleared of blame, he said, they should be paid.

“Since the facts have led us to understand the cause of the issue,” Alameida said, “the right and fair thing to do is to compensate those that the facts indicate are impacted by the acts of others.”

Therese McMillan, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is one of three members of that cost review committee. McMillan said she could not vote to recommend the first of the two payments, totaling $2 million, because such a vote may be perceived as approval of the transportation authority’s assertion of who is to blame for the cracked steel beams.

That would show bias on the part of MTC, McMillan argued, which is problematic because MTC led a peer review panel on the transportation authority’s cracked steel beam investigation at the behest of San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“We’ve been very careful to be neutral,” McMillan told Alameida. “The fact is that this particular contract, and the description you have here, seems to hinge specifically on your determination at this point, your findings, of culpability.”

“A vote supporting this would be an endorsement of your statement here about that fact,” she said.

Pelli Clark Pelli was paid roughly $156 million for the design of the transit center, according to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority. Repairs to the steel beams and other structure of the transit center at Fremont Street and reinforcement of the transit center at First Street are underway and scheduled to be complete by the first week of June 2019, according to the transbay authority.

A reopening date for the transit center has yet to be announced.

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