Twin Peaks Tunnel Opens on Schedule

A view of the new tracks and lights in the upgraded Twin Peaks tunnel. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted
A view of the new tracks and lights in the upgraded Twin Peaks tunnel. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted

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K Ingleside, L Taraval, and M Ocean View commuters finally said goodbye to replacement bus service this weekend, as SFMTA completed restoration work and reopened the Twin Peaks subway tunnel, which had been closed since June.

From the SFMTA’s post about the work:

As part of this project, the tunnel’s infrastructure including the tracks, walls and drainage systems were updated to keep up with the demands of the Muni system. With new tracks, the tunnel’s previous speed restriction will be lifted and will keep trains running reliably through the system. Seismic reinforcements and fire safety enhancements were completed to better protect the tunnel’s overall structure and stability.

Four new track crossovers were installed in the tunnel that will allow the train to switch from one track to the other during delays and can assist improving overall train operations by adding flexibility to our system.

The SFMTA is also planning to make two-cars the new normal on the K/T line, to reduce overcrowding. Muni workers at West Portal stations reported that things were operating well this morning. Some riders reported that the trip seemed smoother and faster. Please post if you noted any tangible difference in your commute this morning or your trips over the weekend through the tunnel.

The San Francisco Transit Riders’s Rachel Hyden, who has been critical of SFMTA’s handling of past construction shut downs, had this to say:

It’s important to recognize that SFMTA publicly stated the tunnel would reopen on August 24th, and it did. On time, on scope, and on budget. This is a big step forward for SFMTA given their history of project delays. We were also quite impressed with several measures taken to make the shutdown less painful for riders. Parking was temporarily removed to create real bus zones, signage was clearer, colorful, and everywhere, and the door-hangers on the trains’ grab bars were creative and fun. Onboard announcements on buses helped communicate consistently with riders, and for the first time, transfer points were called out at relevant stops.

Meanwhile, the shopkeepers of the commercial district of West Portal were happy to see the work finished and the construction barriers removed. “Things are still slow, but it’s starting to get back to normal,” said Maureen Staus, owner of the Eezy Freezy market on West Portal Avenue.

“Everybody was happy to see it completed,” said Armen Bedroussian, whose family has run the Submarine Center sandwich shop, right by the entrance to the West Portal Muni station, since 1981. “There was a noticeable drop in business during construction.”

Armen Bedroussian's family has run the subway shop near the station for 21 years. He's confident the newly opened tunnel will bring back his evening foot traffic and customers.
Armen Bedroussian’s family has run a sandwich shop near the station for 37 years. He’s confident the newly opened tunnel will bring back his evening foot traffic and customers.

Christina, the owner of the Bloom Hair Salon, also right near the station, [she asked Streetsblog to withhold her last name] complained about all the dust that came into the shop while the work was going on. “It’d be nice if we could get compensated for all the cleaning.”

But the project also brought tragedy. Construction worker Patrick Ricketts was killed on August 10 when a beam fell on him in the tunnel. There are now questions about the safety record of Shimmick Construction, and the process (or lack there of) used by SFMTA to vet contractors.

There were also serious questions about the handling of replacement bus service, which involved pulling buses off runs in other parts of the city. “We want to be able to celebrate this work with more fanfare, but it’s difficult when the service disruptions so severely delayed so many riders across the city. We look forward to seeing solutions to address this in the future,” wrote the SFTR’s Hyden.

Meanwhile, this isn’t technically the end of the tunnel closures; there are two late-night, weekend closures planned for the fall to finish some electrical work. Those are tentatively planned for the weekends of September 8 and September 15.

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A new light rail vehicle meets an old one at West Portal Station

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