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Crosscurrents logo 2021

Bids to build SF Central Subway are $100 million over city's estimates


The bids are in to build San Francisco’s Central Subway project – and the price tag will be over $100 million more than the city expected.

The Central Subway will be a 1.7-mile tunnel under the heart of the city for Muni’s T-Third light rail line. The subway will finally provide a connection from the up-and-coming South of Market neighborhood to densely populated Chinatown.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) says once the Central Subway is completed in 2019, the T-Third line will serve 43,700 daily riders. By 2030, the SFMTA estimates the daily ridership on just the subway will reach over 30,000 and ridership for the full line will be 65,000. That would make the T-Third line the second-most boarded light rail project in the country by 2030, after the Downtown Subway in Los Angeles.

All three bids for the construction came in over city engineers’ estimates that the project would cost between $720 and $750 million to build. Los Angeles-based construction company Tutor Perini – which is one-third of the joint venture that was recently picked to build the first part of California’s high-speed rail – had the lowest estimate at $840 million. The city hasn’t announced which bid will be chosen, but it’s likely they will go with the least expensive. The SFMTA says even with the increased construction cost, the project is still within its budget.

The Central Subway project is expected to total almost $1.6 billion. So far, the federal government has committed to funding $983 million of the total cost, through the New Starts program and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program. The state of California has committed $471 million, and San Francisco County is putting in the $124 million it raised from a voter-approved sales tax increase.

Construction has already started in some places along the future line, mostly to prepare for the tunneling. The actual tunneling will begin in June.