Work to Begin Friday on N-Judah Rail Replacement

IMG_0608.jpgN-Judah track at 19th Avenue. Photo: Michael Rhodes
After taking a beating from the never-ending flow of traffic on 19th Avenue and Sunset Boulevard for 30 years, the N-Judah's track will be replaced where it intersects with those two streets starting Friday. For the next two weekends and the first weekend in December, crews will work to rip up the track and replace it with longer-lasting rail, at a total cost of $2 million. The work is part of the MTA's $18 million Rail Improvement Project, which will also include sections of the J-Church and L-Taraval lines, drawing on local, state and federal funds.

Shuttle buses will replace service on the N-Judah west of Duboce and Church Streets for those three weekends. Muni bus lines 28 and 29 and automobile traffic will be diverted from 19th Avenue and Sunset Boulevard to side streets around the construction zone for the three weekends of construction. "We appreciate people's patience as we do this work," said MTA spokesperson Judson True.

"During that time, we're going to put in a new water line, any curb ramps that are needed, and also signal prioritization, which is underground," said MTA project manager Ha Nguyen. "Once that's done, we're going to repave the whole street. We're going to replace the street, the base, and then redo the whole intersection with the asphalt concrete, and then re-stripe the street."

njudah.jpgMuni lines N, 28, and 29 will be rerouted this weekend during rail replacement work, as will automobile traffic. Image: SFMTA
True said the work is necessary to provide reliable service. "The focus is often on our operating budget, and the challenges we have with our operating budget, but using capital dollars to invest in our rail, the overhead wire poles, all the other pieces of our infrastructure, is crucial to providing reliable service," said True.

The new rail will use a direct fixation method, which is sturdier than the current configuration, and should last longer, said Nguyen. Most of the N-Judah's track is in better condition than it is at 19th Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, since the line has its own right-of-way and isn't intersected by such high volumes of traffic elsewhere. Though the rest of the N-Judah's rail in the Sunset is of the same age, the MTA doesn't plan to replace it for at least another ten years.

"This is basically a state highway, 19th Avenue," Nguyen said today, standing at the intersection of 19th Avenue and Judah Street. "This is being crossed over with trucks, as we can see the heavy impact by traffic, it wears out much faster."

In addition to shortening some of the N-Judah track's lifespan, 19th Avenue has complicated the replacement process, since it's a state highway and is thus owned by Caltrans. The MTA coordinated with Caltrans for a year and a half in advance to prepare for the project, and had to obtain a permit from them to do the work.

Given the endless roar of traffic on 19th Avenue, it may be a good time for residents to enjoy a temporary reprieve from the highway at their front doors.

Rail replacement schedule:

7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13 - 5 a.m., Monday, Nov. 16
7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20 - 5 a.m., Monday, Nov. 23
7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4 - 5 a.m., Monday, Dec. 7
Note: Muni shuttle hours are 8 p.m., Friday to 4 a.m., Monday each weekend