Errant driver clogs up San Francisco Muni tunnel 

click to enlarge New terrain: A Muni supervisor says driver Scott Mitchell is lucky to be alive after his trip through a Muni tunnel Thursday. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • New terrain: A Muni supervisor says driver Scott Mitchell is lucky to be alive after his trip through a Muni tunnel Thursday.

Despite efforts to prevent motorists from entering Muni’s underground rail network, an allegedly drunken driver plowed into the Duboce Portal tunnel Thursday, crashing his SUV and delaying service for hundreds of thousands of commuters.

The driver, 40-year-old Scott Mitchell of Sebastopol, raced into the tunnel at about 40 miles per hour, driving about a half-mile on the tracks before smashing into a buttress about 6 a.m., said police and Muni supervisor Tyronne Julian, who witnessed the event.

Mitchell swerved around an inbound train onto the outbound tracks, driving straight toward trains exiting the tunnel. Luckily for Mitchell, Julian radioed central command and had it halt outbound trains, averting a collision.

Last spring, Muni workers installed two large electric “Do Not Enter” signs at the tunnel opening behind the Church Street Safeway, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.

But Mitchell missed the blaring signs and entered the tunnel, a surprisingly common occurrence. There has been at least one similar incident in the last year, Rose said.

Julian has seen cars enter the tunnel before, but no one has ever driven so far down the wrong way.

“He’s real lucky he didn’t get hurt,” said Julian.

After crashing his SUV in the tunnel, Mitchell was arrested at the scene and charged with DUI, driving on train tracks and failure to obey a traffic sign, said police Officer Albie Esparza. He was released on his own recognizance later in the day.

Muni’s underground service was completely shut down for more than two hours as a result of the incident, causing long delays for the 150,000 commuters who travel on the agency’s six Metro train lines. The agency set up bus shuttles until service was restored at 8:18 a.m., said Rose.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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