Traffic and some Muni bus lines will once again flow on Stockton Street on Friday between Geary and Ellis streets after seven years of construction closed off the area to build a new subway station as part of the Central Subway Project.

Businesses and community leaders, some of which who were deeply impacted by the construction, held a ribbon cutting ceremony with transit officials and a lion dance performance on Thursday at Stockton and Geary streets to celebrate the reopening of the street.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin speaks at a reopening ceremony of lower Stockton Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, February 21, 2019.
Ching Wong/SFBay

The City’s top transit official Ed Reiskin said he knows the construction period was long, but said the competition marked a new milestone for the project:

“To take a busy street in busy part of town and shut it down for years on end is not something we do often and it’s not something we enter into doing lightly, but we did it here for a good reason. That reason is the Central Subway.”

He added merchants, residents, visitors to Union Square and Chinatown impacted by the street closure will benefit the most when the subway is complete in December 2019.

Ching Wong/SFBay Lower Stockton Street reopens after a 7-year closure due to Central Subway construction in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, February 21, 2019.

The $1.6 billion project is an extension of the T-Third line that will connect riders living in Mission Bay, Dogpatch, Visitacian Valley and Bayview neighborhoods to Yerba Buena, Moscone Center, Union Square and Chinatown.

Transit officials said the new subway will cut travel times in half as passengers will be able to avoid the usually congested Stockton and Fourth Streets.

Phil Chin with Chinatown Transportation Research and Improvement project, said one of people responsible for making the Central Subway Project happen was Chinatown community organizer Rose Pak who fought to open the subway after the demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway.

Before Pak died in 2016, an idea to leave the street closed for pedestrians that left Pak furious with the idea. Chin said:

“One of the last conversations I had with her and she said ‘Phil, you must ensure that through traffic will flow through lower Stockton again.’”

Chinatown merchants had been hit hard by construction impacts just not from the closure of the lower portion of Stockton Street, but also from the construction of the Chinatown station.

Ching Wong/SFBay Eddie Au, president of the SF Chinese Chamber of Commerce, speaks at a reopening ceremony of lower Stockton Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, February 21, 2019.

Eddie Au, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce said:

“The reopening of lower Stockton will provide much-needed relief and better access to Chinatown and North Beach.”

Karin Flood, executive director, Union Square Business Improvement District said it was nice to hear and see the lion dance performers on Stockton Street instead of the loud drilling and construction noises businesses and visitors have had to endure for years:

“It has been really intense. We’ve lost businesses here along Stockton Street, but the ones that are still here are resilient and we have new businesses coming.”

One of the bright spots during the Stockton Street closure was the Winter Walk festival in partnership with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Ching Wong/SFBay City officials and community leaders cut the ribbon at a reopening ceremony of lower Stockton Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, February 21, 2019.

Construction would cease during the holidays and the area would be covered in green turf where visitors can grab a bite to from food trucks, watch a Broadway performance, or listen to carolers.

Flood said she hopes to bring Winter Fest back:

“We honestly are exploring where we might do the Winter Walk in the future. It’s going to happen somewhere here in Union Square wherever the community rallies behind at that location.”

Muni riders should take note that the 8-Bayshore and its express routes, along with the 91-Owl, will resume its normal route alignment next Monday.

The 30-Stockton and 45-Union/Stockton will continue to reroute around the area and will not return to lower Stockton Street until later this spring.

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 jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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