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Covid-19 fingered as latest culprit behind more Central Subway delays

San Francisco’s Central Subway project is delayed once again and will not complete substantial construction by the end of next month, but instead will finish by next spring, transit officials announced Thursday.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency wrote on its website that Covid-19 impacts were to blame for the construction schedule changes as well as having multiple construction crew members test positive for the virus, which in turn required several crew members to quarantine.

Additionally, the agency cited difficulty in getting materials during the pandemic and ongoing design changes due to underground site conditions. The agency wrote:

“These delays will likely have impacts on the overall project budget, and we are working closely with our construction contractors to get the project completed as safely and prudently as possible.“

Revenue service is not scheduled to begin until spring 2022 instead of the end of 2021.

Construction of the $1.6 billion subway project has been going on since March 17 when city officials declared a shelter-in-place order. There had been no reported cases of crew members getting the virus until June.

A monthly progress report released by the SFMTA on June 1 said the contractor reported eight crew members tested positive for the virus among different labor groups. The infected crew members were quarantined and the contractor closed the tunnel and major stations to conduct a “major cleanup” of the impacted work area during one weekend.

In the July monthly report from the agency, more crew members had tested positive for the virus, bringing the total infected to 12. The transit agency said in its August report that there had been no reported new cases and that all crew members infected with the virus had returned to work following health and safety protocols.

The overall budget for the project is also a concern for transit officials. The estimated actual completion project cost was at $1.656 billion in the Augst report — an estimated $77 million above the current project budget. The original baseline budget for the project was $1.578 billion.

Officials wrote that estimated actual completion cost is not final and that costs associated with the pandemic would also need to be factored into the final figure. The agency said it is working with its finance and grants staffing to fill the shortfall.

Transit officials did point to some good news for the project with crews completing track work and tunnel work inside the subway, and crews are now working on installing cabling for the automatic train control system, tractor power and artwork.

Photos posted by the SFMTA shows signs of stations and subway platforms coming together with transit NextBus signs already installed on some train platforms.

The Central Subway project is the 1.7-mile extension of the T-Third line where the rail line will make new stops at a street-level stop at Fourth and Brannan streets, near the Caltrain station, and then heads underground to three new subway stations: Yerba Buena/Moscone station, Union Square/Market Street station and the final stop at the Chinatown-Rose Pak station.

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