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SFMTA completes first half of transit improvements on Taraval Street

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency recently completed the first of two phases in the L Taravel Improvement Project, including new rail track, overhead wire lines and concrete boarding islands along Taraval Street in the Outer Sunset.

A July 9 event to mark Segment A completion drew applause from local businesses and city officials celebrated the infrastructure upgrades, which have been two years in the making. The project overall improves the L-Taravel Muni rail line that connects between the San Francisco Zoo and Sunset Boulevard.

Work performed since September 2019 additionally included pedestrian bulb out installations, traffic signal and curb ramp upgrades. The agency also replaced water and sewer lines.

District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar speaks from the step of a historical streetcar to mark completion of the first segment of the L Taraval Improvement Project San Francisco, Calif. on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Jerold Chinn / SFBay)

Supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents the Sunset District, thanked the community for its patience during construction, adding:

“Listening to jackhammers outside while you’re sheltering in place during a pandemic is no small sacrifice. This milestone would have not been possible without your resolve and resilience.”

Once the project is completely finished, Mar said L-Taraval will be better than ever, but warned that it will take effort and funding to entice passengers back to the rail line.

Mars said:

“We are a transit-first city but that’s only true when you put our money where our mouth is to invest and deliver the level of service that San Franciscans deserve.”

As is often the case with SFMTA capital projects, key issues needed to be resolved before project construction could start, namely where to best stage construction equipment and how to address loss of parking space caused by boarding islands along the corridor. The islands have been adopted as a safety measure for passengers entering and exiting Muni trains.

The back door of a L-Taraval bus opens in front of a new boarding island at Taraval Street and 44th Avenue in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, July 9, 2021.

Albert Chow, president of the People of Parkside Sunset, said the project has been a long road for local business owners and residents. Chow has worked for several years to ensure the construction impact is minimized for merchants and residents, adding:

“I’m happy to have the SFMTA finally changed some of the protocols. It’s a little bit more collaborative now.”

The project is a collaboration between the SFMTA, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and Department of Public Works. Transit officials said by partnering with the PUC early, they were able to identify potential underground utility conflicts that prompted them split the project into two segments, giving Pacific Gas & Electric and the PUC more time to address and relocate utilities as needed.

The San Francisco Civil Grand Jury last month criticized another SFMTA-led capital project along Van Ness Avenue, saying city agencies did not efficiently locate underground utilities ahead of construction, which caused extensive project delays.

However, SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin said the L Taraval Improvement Project is on time and within budget, at least through Segment A.

Stressing the importance of early engagement with merchants and residents as the SFMTA and partnering city agencies prepare to move into the second phase, Mar said:

“It will be really key to ensuring that the Segment B phase is going to be able to move forward successfully and to minimize the negative impacts on the businesses and the residents.”

The second half of the project — between Sunset Boulevard and West Portal — is currently in bidding request phase. Transit officials anticipate that leg of construction work will begin in early 2022 and last through 2024. The project’s total cost is estimated at $90 million.

Meanwhile, transit officials have not set a date to restore service on the L. Buses have substituted the line’s train service since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

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