Muni approves $233M contract for Central Subway tunneling project in San Francisco 

Muni’s board of directors approved a $233 million tunneling contract for its Central Subway project on Tuesday, a move seen as an essential step by the agency, but decried by its critics as too hasty.

The seven-person board voted unanimously to award the tunnel-boring contract — the largest construction package of the agency’s $1.6 billion undertaking — to Barnard Impregilo Healy, a Montana-based contractor. The Central Subway, scheduled to open in 2019, will extend Muni’s underground Metro service from the Financial District to Chinatown.

Nathaniel Ford, executive director of the Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, said “this tunneling contract is a major part of opening a dynamic, new era in rapid transit for the people of San Francisco, and especially for those traveling along the congested Stockton corridor.”

However, Jerry Cauthen, founder of Save Muni, a transit advocacy organization that is against the Central Subway project, said the agency should have waited longer before awarding the quarter-billion contract.

He pointed out that the MTA has still yet to secure $869 million in federal funding that is supposed to pay for the tunneling contract. The Federal Transit Administration has preliminarily agreed to dispense the funding, but the final hearing on the $869 million grant isn’t scheduled to come until the end of the year.

Cauthen said there is a still a chance that the feds won’t release the money, which would leave the MTA without enough funding to pay the tunneling contract.

“This is a huge risk for the agency to take, since there is no assurance that they’re going to get reimbursed for this,” said Cauthen.

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