The Federal Transit Administration announced today that the long-planned and much debated Central Subway project will receive a $9.9 million grant to support ongoing preliminary engineering and design work. The project would extend light rail service on the T-Third line with a surface stop on 4th Street near Brannan and subway stops in the SoMa, Union Square and Chinatown neighborhoods.
The grant is only a small portion of the Central Subway’s $1.57 billion price tag, but the federal government is expected to ultimately pick up two-thirds of that cost through its New Starts program. Today’s grant brings the FTA’s contribution to $66 million so far, even before it’s given final design approval.
The project has its fair share of detractors, even among transit advocates, who cite concerns about its costs, the design of its stations, its terminus at Chinatown instead of North Beach, and its potential interference with a future Geary subway line.
Still, today’s grant is part of a broader demonstration of strong support for the Central Subway from the federal government, which granted the project environmental clearance in November 2008 and will likely grant final design approval by the end of the year. The FTA gave the project a "medium-high" overall rating earlier this year.
MTA spokesperson Judson True said the funds would mostly go towards preliminary design work, since preliminary engineering on the project is essentially complete. "That contract is over and now we’re at the point where we’re working on the contracts for final design," said True.
"There are three [design request for proposal] packages that are out," said True. "We’ve gotten responses, we’ve been in negotiations, and this will probably be up before our board at some point in the next couple months, maybe even later in October."
Construction is scheduled to begin next year, with a 2018 target date for revenue service.