Geary Boulevard's underpass days could be over 

The recessed section of Geary Boulevard near Fillmore Street has long separated the Western Addition and Japantown neighborhoods, but with future projects possibly bringing in funds to level the street, city officials are calling for plans to be drawn up about reunifying the areas.

Several long-awaited revamps for Geary Boulevard are finally making progress, including the Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project. Part of that project could fund the infill of the underpass at Geary Boulevard and Fillmore Street.

Supervisors London Breed and Eric Mar, whose districts include the areas to the south and north, respectively, have called for a hearing involving numerous city agencies about how pieces of the project can begin to move forward.

The hearing request calls for The City to "begin planning the filling of the Geary underpass between Webster and Steiner and the corresponding reunification of the Japantown and Western Addition/Fillmore communities, and all other aesthetic, transportation, infrastructure, and community opportunities and challenges therein."

"We need people to start looking at and thinking about it," said Peter Lauterborn, a legislative aide in Mar's office. "The Geary project has taken forever. Now, not only do we have a feasible path forward, but we have the means to get it done."

The Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project is aimed at improving Muni service along the heavily traveled corridor, according to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. The agency estimates 50,000 people ride the 38-Geary bus line daily, but the street is also clogged with cars and other obstacles, making the bus route crowded and unreliable. The project would dedicate bus lanes and improve sidewalk bus shelters in hopes of speeding up service.

As part of that project, the corridor's look would change, giving the opportunity for infill in the Western Addition and Japantown area to make that section of the street more inviting. By leveling out traffic lanes, it could encourage drivers to stop and visit the neighborhoods instead of just passing through.

Filling in the roadway could cost millions. The project has been estimated at $40 million.

The entire project is expected to be completed by 2020, but Lauterborn said that date could be moved up to 2018 if work were to start now.

Overall, though, the project is just as much about the neighborhoods and residents as the roadway.

"It's really about closing the divide in these two communities," Lauterborn said

A meeting for the entire Geary project is scheduled for Wednesday, July 31, at the Richmond District YMCA, located at 360 18th St.

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