Despite one lawsuit filed already and another likely, construction work is set to begin next week in North Beach for Muni’s Central Subway.
On Aug. 13, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, will begin a four-month utility relocation project on Columbus Avenue, an undertaking that will close one lane of traffic during business hours.
Then in January, crews will begin a 10-month project to build an underground retrieval shaft, which will allow the agency to pull up its tunnel-boring machines. That project will close down a two-lane section of Columbus Avenue between Powell and Union streets, an area that is not directly in front of any businesses, SFMTA Project Manager John Funghi said. Thanksgiving 2013 is the target date for completion of the work, Funghi said.
North Beach merchants and residents are fuming at the prospect of Columbus Avenue being shuttered to traffic for lengthy periods, particularly because the neighborhood will not benefit from the $1.6 billion project since it ends in Chinatown.
One resident, Marc Bruno, filed a lawsuit against the project last week. Bruno claims that environmental clearances given to the project in 2008 did not take into account the crowds and activity likely to come into the area for the America’s Cup sailing event, scheduled to take place this year and next in the Bay.
Bruno said he has collected $10,000 from local restaurants and businesses to pay for legal fees related to the lawsuit. He said he has left open the option of seeking an injunction against further construction.
A second lawsuit could come soon. Citizens for Sensible Transit, a group representing the North Beach Business Association, sent a letter of demand last week to the SFMTA asking the agency to review its tunnel retrieval process by Thursday. The group claims that the size and scope of the project cleared in 2008 are vastly different from what is set to take place next year. If the SFMTA does not review its work before Thursday, a lawsuit could be forthcoming.
Funghi said the project is moving forward and the legal action has no current impacts on work schedules. He said the SFMTA is working with the North Beach community to minimize disruptions, provided it doesn’t affect the project’s approval process.
“I think we’ve done a good job of sequencing the project to essentially minimize disruptions to the community,” Funghi said.
Supervisor David Chiu, whose district includes North Beach, has asked the SFMTA to review options for other sites to bring up the tunnel boring machines.
“While I remain a supporter of this project, the SFMTA needs to examine all options thoroughly and in good faith to minimize disruption to the North Beach community,” Chiu said.
The SFMTA has said that bringing up the equipment in other sites could increase the costs and delay the overall project timeline.
Phase 1: Utility relocation
Details: Crews will relocate overhead Muni wires, fire hydrant and low-pressure water lines, and AT&T cables; potholing and utility protection work also will take place
Street closures: One lane on Union Street between Columbus Avenue and Powell Street; one lane on Columbus between Union and Powell; in effect from 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; Columbus and Union will not be closed at the same time
Start: Aug. 13
Duration: 4 months
Phase 2: Tunnel-boring machine retrieval shaft
Details: Crews will build a 40-by-40-foot retrieval shaft underneath Columbus to pull up tunnel-boring machine to street level
Street closures: Two lanes on Columbus between Union and Powell will be closed at all times during duration of project
Start: First week of January
Duration: 10 months