Subsurface surprises slow Van Ness bus rapid transit project


San Francisco’s first bus rapid transit system is facing another delay.

The project is currently undergoing utility work, which includes the replacement of the water main, installing twin sewers, and replacing parts of the emergency water system to fight fires along Van Ness Avenue.

Crews digging under the concrete are finding old and abandoned utilities that were not known to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said Peter Gabancho, SFMTA project manager for the Van Ness Improvement Project:

“The extent of utility conflicts we are finding is unfortunately increasing the days necessary to complete this phase of the construction.”

Gabancho told the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board Tuesday that, because of the new discoveries, the project is now slated open in late 2020.

He said there were underground utilities that the transit agency knew about through surveying the area and using maps, but discovering additional infrastructure was a surprise for crews.

For instance, workers found the remains of an abandoned retaining wall used for the original construction of a building along Van Ness Avenue.

The transit agency had to make sure the wall was still not in use, identify who owned it if possible, and determine how to work around the wall, said Gabancho.

Crews are testing ground-penetrating radar to find abandoned utilities as work continues, and will need to make sure they can safely remove items that are discovered. Gabancho said it takes time in removing the abandoned infrastructure.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said it was possible for crews to continue to find abandoned utilities as utility work continues.

Another issue arising is claims made by the main contractor Walsh Construction. The contractor filed eight potential claims but were all rejected by the SFMTA.

Three claims, though, have materialized, totaling approximately $21.6 million, said Gabancho.

During an update of the project in October last year, Gabancho told the board that the contractor believes it is The City’s fault for the lack of competitive bids when they put out a bid out for subcontractors.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

UC Davis marine biologist Susan Williams dies in Petaluma crash

Previous article

Security improve­ments curb car break-ins at city garages

Next article

You may also like

More in News