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Behind schedule, Central Subway Project now expected to open by end of 2021

The latest in the Central Subway Project saga is yet another delay. The schedule is now bumped out for another six months.

San Francisco’s Central Subway Project, the $1.6 billion effort that will extend Muni Metro service from Third Street into Chinatown, has hit another completion delay, transit officials recently announced.

In a blog post Friday, the agency wrote that “substantial completion” of the project is now anticipated by the end of the year. The original target substantial completion date was set for this month.

The agency now expects revenue service to begin by the end of 2021 instead of the summer of 2021. There will be a comprehensive testing period before passenger service is offered.

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay A worker drills into the wall at the Central Subway construction site in Chinatown in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson Erica Kato in an email to SFBay said the delay is largely due to processing change orders and extensive work on the the Automatic Train Control System.

Kato said:

“We are working hard to process the change orders and improve our systems to make them more efficient because we know that has been a challenge for this project. This process continues to take longer than planned especially with respect to the train control systems”

While the Covid-19 pandemic has not severely impacted construction, Kato said it has been a challenge with some staff working at home and others expected to follow city health guidelines for work on major construction sites.

An April progress report shared by the transit agency showed that construction on the Central Subway continued after public health officials issued the March 17 stay-at-home order.

Through public records requested by Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, a federal monitor report for the months of March and April said while construction continued through the pandemic, the agency should assess impacts caused by Covid-19, including construction inefficiencies caused by physical distancing and availability of resources.

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay A go-kart passes the Central Subway construction site in Chinatown in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.

Additionally, the monitor wrote that the transit agency should assess how processing construction changes have been affected with some employees working remotely.

The monitor found that revenue service could extend into 2022 as a result of Covid-19 impacts to the project and potential changes related to the ACTS.

It should be noted that monthly monitor reports have projected different revenue service forecasts in prior reports on the basis of work completed and new issues that arose during the reporting period.

Despite a delay in the project’s opening date, the agency said they did achieve a major milestone at the Rose Pak Chinatown station by completing an emergency exit near Stockton and Jackson streets.

The agency said:

“This new exit was a massive endeavor that began in 2015 by excavating down over 95 feet. Once the soil was removed, the equivalent of a 9-story building was constructed underground — surrounded by reinforced concrete, waterproofed and then capped with a pneumatic roof hatch.”

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay A worker applies weatherproofing inside a tunnel at the Central Subway construction site in Chinatown in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.

The SFMTA has had to push out the opening date of the Central Subway several times.

The new system was originally scheduled to open by the end of 2018, but that date was later adjusted to reflect a completion goal by the end of 2019. After Nadeem Tahir came on as the permanent project manager, the completion date was bumped out again with completion anticipated for mid-2021.

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