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City prepping fix for closed Transbay Transit Center

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Still no word on when the multibillion-dollar albatross will reopen

jacks holding up the structure
Temporary shoring bracing damaged sections of the Transit Center.
Photo by Brock Keeling

On Thursday the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors met once again to mull the matter of the $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center and Salesforce Park, which remains closed months after workers discovered key support beams had cracked and potentially endangered the stability of the new structure.

Terminal construction manager Dennis Turchon said at Thursday’s hearing that engineers have devised a fix for the faulty beams, which will be put in place soon.

However, nobody was able to suggest when the facility will reopen.

“Within a couple of weeks we’ll have good, solid information,” promised Turchon.

The peer-review panel that oversees the work being done to investigate the building’s woes—and to find a fix—has signed off on a solution to the immediate problem of cracked girders.

However, questions remain about precisely why the cracks formed in the first place, meaning no one can say whether an additional fix would be required.

Turchon showed board members the design for a “sandwich plate bolted connection,” essentially two long plates that will attach to the top and bottom of the damaged girders to make them able to bear the necessary load again.

“There’s 224 bolts” holding the design together, said Turchon. The entire connection would run a length of 14 feet.

salesforce park from aboce Photo by Patricia Chang

That will put the damaged sections back in order. But as for a potential fix date on the vacant downtown San Francisco structure, Turchon could say only that that was a “post-January” goal, while presenting a chart that showed the hypothetical calendar stretching potentially into March or beyond.

“We have directed [construction contractor] Webcor to procure materials needed for the repairs,” said Mark Zabaneh, the director of the transit center project. “We are very close to determining a schedule to reopen. I ask for our patience.”

A December hearing revealed that the root of the fractured steel lay in the welding process.

Robert Vecchio, president of LPI Inc., the metallurgical lab tasked with investigating the building’s troubles, told TJPA directors that access holes cut into the beams for welding created tiny “micro fractures” that then spread out and deepened as construction and building use put more stress on them.

It was not immediately clear whether this was the fault of the welding work itself, the design of the building, or some other factor.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director Ed Reiskin said of Thursday’s progress report, “It’s great to hear we have a fix that the peer review committee has agreed upon, that’s encouraging.”

But Michael Hursh, head of AC Transit, said he was still anxious to get “a black-and-white definition of what happened.”