San Francisco, We Have a Problem

Cracked Beam Closes New Salesforce Transit Center

The main hall of the new transit center, now closed. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick
The main hall of the new transit center, now closed. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick

It took eight years to build and cost $2.26 billion. It finally opened last month.

And now it’s broken.

From an AC Transit release put out last night:

…a fissure has been discovered in a steel beam of the Salesforce Transit Center. The steel beam is located in the ceiling of the third level Bus Deck, on the eastern side, of the Transit Center near Fremont Street. Out of an abundance of caution, the TJPA has closed the Salesforce Transit Center until further notice.

Apparently the crack was discovered as workers were doing finishing work on the building. Streetsblog emailed a structural engineer who specializes in such failures. “It’s rare for there to just be one crack,” wrote the engineer, who commented on condition of anonymity. “They’re going to find more. Steel doesn’t crack for no reason.”

[UPDATE 9/27 They found more.]

Should they close the terminal?

Yes,” replied the engineer, at least until they can figure out exactly what happened and how to fix it.

Police guarded Fremont Street under the Transit Center, now closed after a cracked beam was discovered
Police guarded Fremont Street under the Transit Center, now closed after a cracked beam was discovered in the Terminal, which passes overhead

The San Francisco Chronicle‘s John King interviewed Joe Maffei of Maffei Structural Engineering in San Francisco, who also made it clear that a structural beam simply should not crack. “Two possible culprits are a fabrication problem — something went wrong when the beam was manufactured — or the beam is supporting more weight than it’s designed to bear,” he told the Chronicle.

AC Transit buses back at the familiar "Temporary" Transbay facility. And how temporary will it be now?
AC Transit buses back at the familiar “Temporary” Transbay facility. And how temporary will it be now?

Meanwhile, AC Transit buses, as seen above, have returned to the street-level Temporary Transit Center at Howard & Beale Streets, along with other agencies that use the center, including Muni and Golden Gate Transit.

Streetsblog took AC Transit in this morning and, certainly, the ride is longer without the dedicated ramp available into the Salesforce terminal and the slog through street-level traffic. However, the majority of the delay getting to downtown was still just getting across the bridge itself. Bus operators and passengers have had eight years to get used to the temporary center, and didn’t seem to have any trouble returning to their old routine.

An aerial view of the rooftop park of Transbay. Pic: Transbay Joint Powers Authority
An aerial view of the rooftop park of Transbay. Pic: Transbay Joint Powers Authority

Do you take a Transbay bus as part of your commute? How much was it impacted by the closure? And what do you make of the unfortunate discovery. Post below.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    The impact of the temporary terminal buses sharing Folsom with cars is felt more in the evening than in the morning, so we still haven’t really seen the worst of it. If the city and its transit agencies had any sense at all, which they do not, Folsom would be closed between Main and Essex from 4pm to 7pm, and there would be someone directing traffic at 1st & Folsom.

  • LazyReader

    California politics…solve a problem, cause another.

  • p_chazz

    The Executive Director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority during its construction was Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, appointed by Willie Brown. Found this Matier & Ross quote in a blog:

    In the late 1990s, Brown hired Ayerdi-Kaplan — then a 33-year-old single mother with a law degree — after she showed up at the mayor’s office in need of a job.

    She was quickly promoted to be his transportation czar, and together they began pushing a plan to replace the aging Transbay Terminal with a gleaming new, Grand Central Station-style transportation hub.

    After a city vote and some legislative maneuvers by the pair in Sacramento, the regional Transbay Joint Powers Authority was born — with Ayerdi-Kaplan installed as its executive director.

    “Ayerdi-Kaplan is keeping a stiff upper lip, telling us that ‘the project is bigger than any one of us’ and that she’s trying to ‘stay the course, remain positive and deliver the project to the public.'”

    If only she knew then just how much bigger it was.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Oh, Roger, you’re adorable.

    What’s the “problem”?

    was an “architectural” “competition” which was rigged so firstly nearly
    every competent practice passed or was excluded, and which was “won” by
    the worst, most expensive, most insane, most tranportation-hostile team

    Train service was immediately thrown under
    the metaphorical bus. (Give us another six billion to complete the job!
    Unless you’re not TRANSIT FIRST, and we know you love transit, right?)

    which structural columns — supporting a 100% superfluous and harmful
    greenwash bullshit park in the sky, a 100% superfluous and harmful
    above-ground mezzanine level, a 100% superfluous and harmful underground
    mezzanine level — were sketched on the back of a paper napkin in a transportation-oblivious
    array by some intern-level shithead at ARUP North America and then never
    even slightly altered by the “winners” of the “architectural”
    “competition”. Oh, the columns are placed *EXACTLY WHERE* train tracks
    *NEED* to go and where escalators and elevators *NEED* to go to to get
    trains and people in and out of the sjitty dark hole underneath the
    park, mezzanine, street, mezzanine. But what do you expect for over
    “architectural design services” from America’s Finest?

    And yeah, so the “train station” can never work for rail transportation.
    yeah, there are three entirely unnesssary and actively harmful levels
    on what neeeded to be a two level (buses up, trains down)
    *transportation* facility in downtown SF.
    So yeah, any hypothetical
    trains that every hypothetically get into the shithole underground will
    be stuck in tunnels waiting for other trains to work their way around
    the intern’s structural columns on numerous choke-points.
    So yeah,
    any bus that does enter or leave this hpothetical “transportation”
    facility needs to make a full stop because some asshole made the inbound
    and outbound bus lanes cross over at grade, even though they’re coming
    from a grade-separated bridge on two separate levels. (Death really is
    too kind a fate.)
    So yeah, maybe the steel (which the TJPA criminals
    involved are at pains to point out uis Proudly Made in the USA, and of
    course Proudly Designed in the USA, and Proudly Erected in the USA) is
    breaking, but, you know, so what?

    The system’s working!

    It’s working perfectly.

    The fucking insane “design” cost three times what anybody with a single functioning brain cell would have paid.

    Lots of people made off with BILLIONS of dollars. That’s thousands of millions. Gone.

    going to make a lot of money fixing the unexpected design flaw that
    somebody made hundreds of millions to come up with.

    And there’s
    still going to be a fucking useless park in the sky, with
    lowest-common-denominator greenwashing and “public art” (oh God, fucking
    Ned Kahn again?), there’s still going to be a Great Hall that serves no
    purpose other than divert transit passengers and make buses and trains
    even slower than driving, there are still going to be two insanely
    expensive and harmful and unnecessary mezzanine levels, and there’s

    But give us another six billion, and maybe we’ll think about it. Suckers.

    I see no problem here. And neither does Houston.

  • LazyReader

    Yes and now a second cracked beam has been discovered. Ironic the Salesforce transit center sits adjacent to the so-called sinking condominium, Millennium Tower,
    which has settled about 18 inches since it opened having been built over a former landfill
    in 2009. Another example of space age architecture spelling doom for building owners. Salesforce was designed by Caeser Pelli, another celebrity architect known for his projects going way over budget and inviting lawsuits for failed promises.

    Opponents of Traditional and Classical architecture assert such buildings are too expensive to construct today. Thus it’s ironic that “scientific” Modernism gave us this sore example and has produced two of the most costly and over-budget structures in living memory, World Trade Center 1 and the WTC transit Hub. Combined price tag of over 9 Billion dollars. To raise funds to amortize them, the Port Authority hiked tolls on its bridges and tunnels by 56%. A startling trend in polls actually show today a vast majority of architecture students do not know how to draft. CAD (Computer aided design) has eliminated that necessity from their resume and as a result since they cant draft, they have little to no engineering know how. So the responsibility falls to engineering firms to make bizarre shapes and concepts, physically possible. What’s ironic is this abandoned Detroit transit center is more aesthetically appropriate for San Francisco and ironically is nearly a century old and after 40 years of abandonment, neglect, exposure to the elements and vandalism is still standing.

  • Ever since Folsom lost a lane of traffic, it’s always stop/go from 1st to 6th St.

  • SF Guest

    You mean 6th to 1st Street in the eastbound direction.

  • Of course that’s what I meant 😉

  • Claude

    I agree! This project was too important to do something daring and innovative. They should have stuck with proven methods and architecture to blend in with the community.
    A building like Detroit’s would have still given plenty of room for terrace gardens without experimenting with novel engineering.


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