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Transbay Transit Center closure: Here’s what we know

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What happened—and what now

Pedestrians during morning rush hour outside the Transbay Transit Center Wednesday.
Photo by Brock Keeling

Update: A second crack was found.

A little before 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Transbay Transit Center, San Francisco’s $2.2 billion transportation center and rooftop park that opened to fanfare in August, closed after a fissure was discovered on a steel beam on the third-floor deck.

The shutter came just at Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce conference, was getting underway, which caused an already hectic traffic situation to get worse. Buses in the transit center were diverted to the old Temporary Transit Center. City officials closed Fremont between Howard and Mission.

Today yellow warning tape has been stretched around the multibillion-dollar behemoth as the Transbay Joint Powers Authority figures out what happened and inspects the structure’s entirety for more cracks.

What is the Transbay Transit Center?

Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the structure, which was publicly funded, cost roughly $2.2 billion. It stretches nearly three blocks between Beale and Second streets in San Francisco’s newfangled East Cut neighborhood. It opened August 12 with bus service (Golden Gate Transit, AC Transit, and a handful of Muni lines) and a 5.4-acre rooftop park. Caltrain service and California High-Speed Rail service are expected to follow in years to come.

Who found the crack?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The cracked beam was spotted Tuesday morning by workers installing ceiling panels on the center’s third-floor bus platform.”

What caused the crack?

Unknown at this time. Officials have yet to determine the cause of the crack. “While this appears to be a localized issue and we have no information that suggests it is widespread, it is our duty to confirm this before we allow public access to the facility,” Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

Are there more cracks?

Yes, a second crack was found overnight. The center will remain closed through next week.

Are cracks like this normal?

Nope. “A structural steel beam should never crack,” Joe Maffei of Maffei Structural Engineering tells urban design critic John King.

Is the steel beam that important?

Absolutely. The beam, which is made of American steel, helps support the rooftop park.

Is the rooftop park closed too?

Yes.

Is the Transbay Transit Center built on landfill?

Yes—and so are a slew of other nearby structures.

When will the Transbay Transit Center and park reopen?

The center and park will remain closed through next week.

What’s happened to public transit servicing the center?

All transit inside the terminal, including Muni (the 5, 5R, 7, 25, 38, and 38R), Golden Gate Transit, and AC Transit, will move to the old temporary terminal on the block bounded by Folsom, Howard, Beale, and Main Streets. It can be found one block away from the currently closed transit center.

Is the crack related to the Millennium Tower, which is located next door, currently tilting and sinking?

While the Millennium Tower is suffering structural woes of its own, there are not enough facts right now to link Millennium Tower’s sinking to causing the transit center’s crack and subsequent closure. Suggestions linking the two would be conjecture at this point.

However, according to a recent ruling by the San Francisco Superior Court, the Millennium Tower’s sinking is now being blamed on Transby Transit Center construction. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority denies the accusation.

Has Mayor London Breed released a statement?

Yes. Breed says:

“Today I went to the Transbay Transit Center to see the site myself and meet with Transbay Joint Powers Authority leadership and City department heads to discuss the ongoing investigation and what we are doing to fix this situation. We must have a thorough and transparent investigation to determine the causes, severity, and impacts of this discovery, as well as a plan to re-open the Transit Center as soon as it is safe to do so. The Transbay Transit Center is too important for our City and our regional transportation system not to act quickly to have definitive answers for the public, and someone needs to be held accountable once the cause is determined. As the safety of the people of San Francisco is always of primary importance, we will continue to act cautiously and keep the Transit Center and block of Fremont Street closed until we have further answers. Our City agencies and regional transportation partners have been working to manage the traffic disruptions caused by these closures, and they will continue to do so.”