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Central Subway delayed until 2021

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Deja vu all over again

Underground view of two massive concrete subway tunnels with a construction crane.
Central Subway construction in 2018.
Photo by Robert Pierce

You might have heard this one before: San Francisco’s Central Subway, the new 1.7-mile connection between Chinatown and Bayview, is delayed yet again. The city now predicts that trains won’t run underground along the new route until 2021.

San Francisco Examiner reports that unnamed sources have indicated a 2021 target, saying that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) grudgingly confirmed the news after months of playing things close to the vest.

The project’s official timeline still holds that “revenue service” will begin by the end of this year, although SFMTA’s site speculating about a future extension that an opening won’t happen “until early 2020.”

That’s even worse news than was predicted by a federal monitor’s report in March, which gloomily predicted a May 2020 opening. That document cited longtime fights with contractors, worker shortages, and constant flooding as gremlins holding up the process.

Originally, SFMTA scheduled the new subway for “substantial completion” in February of 2018, then later adjusted that target to December of 2018.

But the dream of a new north-south Muni light rail line is even older than that. In 2001, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a similar route “from Caltrain to Chinatown” could finish by 2009, with a budget of $647 million—simpler times.

Despite never arriving at the terminus of the current subway project, SFMTA already has its eyes on another site for the future, digging into currently hypothetical proposals for “a potential extension of the Central Subway beyond its current Chinatown Station terminal,” possible to “North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Marina, Cow Hollow, [or the] Presidio.”