Central Subway Project to ease commuting woes in San Francisco

Commuting in San Francisco can be challenging, especially during rush hour when having to transfer to a different bus line.

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency hopes to decrease the stress and pressure of commuting by opening up a new central subway line within the next seven years; however the cost of the project seems to be a problem.

The Central Subway Project is the second phase of a larger project that aims to connect Little Hollywood and Visitacion Valley with SoMa, Moscone Center, Union Square and Chinatown, according to the SFMTA.

“I go to Chinatown often,” said Brandon Wong, 24, a commuter and SF State graduate. “It will just be an additional way for me to get over there. More lines means less crowded and more frequent trains so I’m not complaining.”

The project has come under heavy criticism due to its large scale and cost, around $1.5 billion for the 1.7 mile-long rail line. There will be an additional $4 million per year in operating costs.

Of the $1.5 billion, $983 million is planned to come directly from federal funding, but a Republican bill recently introduced at the House of Representatives would deny federal funding completely for projects with more than half their funding coming from the federal government. If the bill passes, the city of San Francisco would be pay the remaining cost.

With mayoral elections rapidly approaching, political interest in the project has reached a boiling point. Candidate Dennis Herrera has vowed to cancel the project if elected, which would result in the loss of the $200 million SFMTA has already spent on the project. An additional $92.4 million that came from the federal government would also have to be paid back.

However, according to SFMTA officials, more than 50 percent of the Central Subway Project was state funded so the impact of the proposed Republican bill will be minimized if it passes.

“The project currently meets the threshold of the way the bill is currently described,” said John Funghi, SFMTA program manager for the central subway. “The central subway is part of the construction of the T-Line and the city has primarily constructed the 5.4 mile piece using local funds. The city has spent more than 50 percent on the project so it’s safe from the Republican bill.”

“The debt just keeps rising,” said Joy Um, 25, a San Francisco commuter. “But public transportation will always be needed in San Francisco so I don’t really see any other alternative in this situation. It’s unfortunate that it comes down to ideological views of Republicans versus Democrats when so many people are in need of service.”

Either way, the project is still a long way from being finished. According to Funghi, construction will not be completed until 2018.

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