Central Subway Receives $9.9 Million Federal Grant

STV.jpgCentral Subway Moscone station. Graphic: MTA

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.

  • Anonymous

    This project is fatally flawed in many ways

  • Anonymous

    Watch, as soon as the project is over in 2020, they’re going to ask for Bus-only access on Stockton Street.

  • Citizenal

    By “flawed,” do you mean it will immediately be crowded and well-patronized? If so, I agree. It’s flawed.

  • Anonymous

    I am not concerned with the crowding at all, I don’t think it will get any kind of crowding. And the fact that they’re using high-floor platforms will only add to the cost to converting the platforms to low-floor when low-floor cars are acquired in 2030.

  • Troy

    I agree that this is a terrible use of transit dollars. It boggles the mind that *this* is a transit priority instead of a Geary Subway. A 1.6 billion dollar subway that is like a mile long and connects caltrain to Chinatown? how does that make any sense?

  • Troy, agreed but we’ve been over this a bunch. It is a fulfillment of Willie Brown’s promise to Chinatown that they will get a direct transit connection because the Embarcadero Freeway came down.

    Citizenal, I really hope you are right, but reason dictates that you are WAY off. Have you ridden the 30/45/9x? I would like to hear how you figure that the demographic riding those buses would switch to the subway. Also, no one will ride this to North Beach, they will still ride the bus because this DOES NOT come within 5 blocks of the North Beach tourists sites.

    The only true solution for Chinatown is taking the plunge on a car-free Stockton St. I would like to see this city stand behind the transit first policy instead of pushing for a bloated project to protect street level traffic.

  • jim

    @mikesonn: Yes, car-free Stockton is the answer. Two bidirectional lanes of dedicated right of way from Caltrain down 4th to Stockton would do the trick. You would probably need to make Kearny/3rd two way and remove any parking to accommodate additional traffic removed from Stockton/4th.

    Car-free Stockton would allow a surface stop and much better pedestrian conditions at Union Square and would allow for the creation of an outdoor farmers market in Chinatown which would be a significant tourist and resident attraction.

    It could be completed in a relatively short time with a small fraction of the expense of a subway. They should do this even as the central subway gets built as it probably cannot be stopped at this point.

  • patrick

    They have to build it high floor, the entire Muni system is high floor. I agree that high floor is lame, but those decisions were made years ago and it would make even less sense to have mismatched equipment for 20 years.

  • Wouldn’t FREE limo rides be cheaper?