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Central Subway possibly delayed again

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Trains may not run until 2020

Workers cleaning up the interior of a huge underground subway tunnel. Photos by Robert Pierce

The latest train in San Francisco is always the one that’s yet to run: The ongoing 1.7-mile Central Subway extension is already more than a year late—it was originally scheduled for “substantial completion” in February of 2018—but now a federal monitor’s report warns that new delays may push the final target date into 2020.

The monitor’s report, which was submitted to the city in March but reflects conditions at the beginning of the year, notes that “the latest master program schedule update forecasts substantial completion on July 15, 2019” and a “revenue service date [of] December 26, 2019.”

However, thanks to obstacles in the process, chief among them ongoing fights between the city and contractors, the period of actually serving commuters may not happen until May 26, 2020.

What’s the holdup? According to the monitor’s assessment, multiple conflicts threaten the current timetable:

  • Fighting with contractors: “Breakdown in relationships between SFMTA and contractors during construction results in increased claims and delays to the overall construction schedule. This risk is being realized, with TPC (Tutor Perini Corporation) issuing more than 100 claims to date. This risk is now rated as the highest threat to the project. [...] SFMTA is initiating an analysis of the responsibilities for delays to support negotiation of a global settlement for delays.”
  • Possible cost overruns: “Unresolved assignment of responsibility for schedule delays may lead to increased costs for the program. This risk continues to be a concern. TPC continues to push for a global settlement of the outstanding claims. If accepted, the proposed settlement would have significant cost impacts.” Note that for the time being the subway is on budget.
Escalators at Yerba Buena Station.
  • Mysterious leaks: “Water leaks continue at YBM (Yerba Buena/Moscone Center station) despite ongoing repair activities. [...] Thus far, the schedule impacts of the leaks have been minor, but SFMTA expects to be liable for the costs of the repairs.” SFMTA has spent $500,000 to $800,000 on leak mitigation work.
  • Worker shortages: “Insufficient resources are available to complete the work as planned. Thus far, crew shortages have not been experienced. However, there are concerns about the adequacy of the electrical subcontractor’s resources.” Note that trouble getting enough qualified electricians delayed the opening of the Transbay Transit Center last year.
  • Potential delays with final tests: “CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) has insufficient staff to witness required testing. This risk of delays due to insufficient CPUC staffing continues to be a concern. SFMTA has identified having CPUC audit tests conducted by others as a possible mitigation measure. SFMTA is working with CPUC to advance the certification process that must be completed in advance of testing.”

Subway construction began February of 2010. By the beginning of 2019, the project was nearly 82 percent complete.

In early March, an SFMTA spokesperson told the San Francisco Examiner that the city agency maintains it can still make its deadlines this year but acknowledged that “there remains risk to meeting that timeline.”