Covid blamed for further delay on San Francisco’s Central Subway scheme

Completion of the $1.6bn project to extend a light railway 1.7 miles under downtown San Francisco has been delayed by several months owing to Covid-19 "and other complexities", the city agency that owns it said last week.

Undertaken by Tutor Perini Corporation, the Central Subway project, which extends the Muni Metro T Third Line under South of Market (SoMa), Union Square and Chinatown, had been due to complete at the end of December this year.

But the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) said on 12 November that it will now complete in "Spring 2021", meaning it won’t be ready to carry the paying public until Spring 2022, after the SFMTA has tested safety and train control systems.

SFMTA said the new delay is caused by Covid outbreaks among workers, problems with getting materials amid the pandemic, the move to remote working, and the need to institute Covid site safety measures.

It also cited "ongoing design changes throughout the project due to the differing site conditions discovered deep underground".

"These delays will likely have impacts on the overall project budget, and we are working closely with our construction contractors to get the project completed as safely and prudently as possible," SFMTA said.

Tutor Perini broke ground on the scheme in 2010, at which time completion was scheduled for 2018, but unexpected ground conditions, design changes and other problems saw the completion date pushed back repeatedly.

In September 2019 Tutor Perini said it had secured $31.2m from the SFMTA to resolve "previously unpaid amounts for the delays that the project experienced as a result of unexpected site conditions and owner-directed changes in project design".

Covid prompted the SFMTA to suspend light rail operations in April this this year. Trains started running again on 22 August, only to be halted three days later amid equipment failures and a Covid case among control centre staff.

Image: A worker installs ceiling panels at the platform level in Chinatown-Rose Pak Station, one of the stops on San Francisco’s new Central Subway extension (Photograph courtesy of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency)

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