Third Street rail on track for January run 

Expected to spur growth in neighborhoods it serves, line links Sunnydale, Castro

Muni’s long-awaited Third Street light-rail line is scheduled to go live in January, and is expected to spark much-needed development in the neighborhoods it rolls through.

Although delayed by more than a year and $120 million over budget, Muni officials say the project is well worth the wait and cost. The project is priced at $667 million.

"It’s a great achievement to finally get it going," said Shirley Black, who sits on Muni’s board of directors. "We’ve wanted this for a long time. It will improve our transportation."

Muni plans to open the rail with limited free service on the weekends as a way to test it. The rail will run between Sunnydale Avenue and the Castro station.

In April 2007, Muni is expected to open the complete 5.4-mile rail line with full seven-day service. It will provide service along Third Street, beginning at the Caltrain Depot at Fourth and King streets running to the intersection of Bayshore Boulevard and Sunnydale Avenue in Visitacion Valley. The rail passes through the Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods.

Come April, one car will roll along the rails every nine minutes during morning and afternoon peak hours. The cars will arrive every 12 minutes in the evening and every 20 minutes at night until 1 a.m.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who represents the neighborhoods along by the Third Street corridor, said the area has already seen some benefits. As a result of the project, street palms have been planted and additional street lighting installed.

Maxwell said construction has adversely impacted some businesses, but expects they can recover once the line is up and running.

Perhaps one of the more exciting aspects of the light-rail line is the development that may follow.

Maxwell said the line’s opening would go a long way in attracting a developer to build on a vacant

12-acre site near the end of the route in Visitacion Valley. The site has remained vacant since Schlage Lock, a key and lock manufacturer, closed down in 1999. One developer is interested in building several hundred units of housing on an adjacent 8-acre site.

Maxwell said the rail’s opening brings the community closer to seeing the envisioned "transit village" on these 20 acres, replete with affordable housing, park space and a much-needed shopping area.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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