Monday, July 02, 2018

Van Ness BRT project "will be very exciting"

Photo: Paul Chin

Like his colleagues at the Chronicle, Carl Nolte usually supports whatever City Hall wants to do in the city (Passive-Aggression and the Chronicle), but one of the city's most important projects is getting on his nerves:

And just now may be the high tide, the zenith, of construction projects. The champion, of course, is the Central Subway, under construction for five years. The project costs $1.6 billion and will open late next year. Maybe. Second Street is also being dug up to make it better. But for the biggest pain in the neck, I vote for the Van Ness Avenue Improvement Project, which will transform the avenue by replacing the sewers and water mains, and then constructing two bus-only lanes down the middle of the street to make the buses run five minutes faster. When it’s done, Van Ness will have 210 new trees and other improvements.

That is, Nolte doesn't actually oppose the Van Ness Avenue Improvement Project; he's just annoyed that it's taking so long. He of course accepts the city's official terminology about all the "improvements" to city streets. (The Van Ness project is about improvements the same way the Masonic Avenue and Polk Street bike projects are "streetscape" projects.)


Construction material is stored in the street — on the west side of Van Ness from Bush Street south to the Civic Center — and in the center from Bush north. I counted 54 pieces of equipment, from drill bits to earth movers and small bulldozers parked on Van Ness the other day. It’s not possible to move the stuff when the day’s work ends, said Kate McCarthy, a public outreach officer for the project. So the equipment is there day and night.

Recall that McCarthy was hired by the city from the Bicycle Coalition, a favorite source of employees by the anti-car City Hall.

Kate McCarthy

The $520 million project, which began in 2016, is a year behind schedule and should be finished at the end of 2020. The reason, McCarthy said, was bad weather in the first year of construction and surprises under the street, a patchwork of infrastructure, some of it more than a century old, buried and forgotten. “There were a lot of utilities that were not identified,” McCarthy said. So it’s taken longer to rebuild Van Ness than it took to build the Golden Gate Bridge.

$520 million? Only two years ago, the project had a $223 million price tag!

But everything will be fine in the end. Take it from PR flack McCarthy: 

McCarthy said the disruption will be worth all the trouble in the end. “It will be very exciting,” she said. “It will restore the luster of a very important corridor in the city.”

Oh yes, all these "improvements" to city streets are wonderful, like that "exciting" Treasure Island project I wrote about the other day.

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