San Francisco

Cracked Beam Compels San Francisco Officials to Close Brand New $2.2 Billion Transit Hub

The transit center will remain closed through the end of next week.

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Wikimedia Commons

The Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco cost more than $2.2 billion and took about eight years to construct. Yesterday the city had to shut it down because of a cracked steel support beam.

The center will stay closed through the end of next week.

The four-story transit center, which opened to the public on August 12, serves as hub for many of the city's bus lines. Hailed the "Grand Central of the West," it's supposed to serve as many as 45 million people each year, the Associated Press reports. In addition to its bus services, the transit center features restaurants, shops, and even a rooftop public park.

But Tuesday morning, workers installing ceiling panels discovered a crack in a 6 ½-foot steel beam on the third floor. Officials had no choice but to close down the center. "The beam is cracked, so the behavior of the beam is unpredictable," Transbay Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Mark Zabaneh said at a news conference. Zabaneh called it a "safety issue," adding that "we can't take any chances."

It wasn't clear what caused the crack, but it meant chaos for commuters. Buses were redirected, and several of the streets surrounding the structure were closed to traffic. In a press release, officials asked motorists to "avoid driving downtown," while warning transit riders "to allow extra time for their commute." This afternoon, Zabaneh said a second cracked beam had been discovered as well.

So what caused the issue? Joe Maffei of the San Francisco–based firm Maffei Structural Engineering tells the San Francisco Chronicle that he sees two potential culprits for the first crack: It could be "a fabrication problem—something went wrong when the beam was manufactured—or the beam is supporting more weight than it's designed to bear."

The cracked beams aren't the only problem to plagued the new transit center. When construction finally ended, the structure was more than $500 million over budget. And earlier this month, the rooftop park's walkway started crumbling.

As San Francisco spends resources on public transportation, it has made life harder for companies trying to give commuters more choices. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance in April requiring dockless electric scooter services to be licensed and instructing the city's Metropolitan Transportation Agency to draft regulations for these scooters. The city eventually granted permits to just two companies, and each was only allowed to deploy 625 vehicles.

It's not just scooters. For months, San Francisco City Supervisor Aaron Peskin has pushed a plan that would tax Uber and Lyft's net rider fares. Last week Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing San Francisco voters to have the final say on that proposal. Peskin hopes to have the measure on the ballot in 2019.

The San Francisco government clearly values public transportation over private alternatives. In a better world, the city would take its ability to spend billions on transit without getting it right as a sign it should rethink those priorities.

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  1. “The beam is cracked, so the behavior of the beam is unpredictable,”

    And yet the behavior of the corrupt officials behind this shit remains imminently predictable.

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  3. The beam is cracked, so the behavior of the beam is unpredictable

    Yet another example of why we need a national mental health database.

  4. I’m an engineer. Steel beams don’t crack from extra stress or weight. They bend and warp. Somebody fucked up somewhere. Probably manufacturing. Concrete is designed to crack, and concrete cracks are usually okay. Steel beam cracks mean get the hell out of the building.

    1. “Steel beams don’t crack from extra stress or weight.”
      Been sort of following this and I’ve yet to hear anyone knowledgeable call it “a crack”.
      There was a reference earlier today to some welding, so possibly a weld cracked, but that’s a guess on my part.

      1. If I had to make a wager I’d say it was a simple case of hydrogen embrittlement. Perhaps it was a heat treat that wasn’t baked long enough, cheap material with forged certs, or as you say a poor weld or maybe some low quality high sulfur filler metal. In any event those are but a few of the usual suspects and it probably won’t be long before someone does some metallurgical analysis to better identify the issue. Then again, it is Cali so they might just throw a few extra taxpayer dollars at it so cousin Bucky isn’t embarrassed by his dodgy workmanship.

        1. “If I had to make a wager I’d say it was a simple case of hydrogen embrittlement.”
          Certainly possible, but any design engineer who put the design ‘to paper’ without a source to ‘bake’ the part properly should be fired at best.
          Not a one of my designs/specs ever required a treatment of any sort which was not available locally to the mfgr or the destination.

  5. it’s supposed to serve as many as 45 million people each year

    Applying the inefficiency of public transport to the issuance of subpoenas?

    Libertarian moment!

    1. “it’s supposed to serve as many as 45 million people each year”
      This was the assumed (probably vastly over-estimated) traffic once moonbeam’s choo-choo terminates here. At the rate that’s going, if it ever does, this building will probably be ready to be torn down.

  6. OK, some dish:
    A dim-bulb proggy Supervisor (Jane Kim) sits on the transit board which ‘owns’ the bus station. The developer had agreed to provide ‘affordable housing’ as a condition of contracting for developing the site, but conscious that folks paying market rate might be ‘sensitive’ to who occupys the place next door, contracted to provide that ‘AH’ some distance off.
    Kim, after taking her seat, unilaterally changed the terms of the contract, requiring the cheap stuff at the same location. The contractor said that was not possible at the agreed costing, and when they couldn’t get an up-charge approved, walked out, leaving the project, at that point, some $20m shy of what was required for completion (from memory, and at that time the ).
    Benioff (Sales Force CEO) is nothing if not ‘connected’ to the SF pols, and while he doessn’t like Kim and didn’t cover the total loss she caused, popped up with some money to get his name on the thing; it is, officially, “The Benioff Transit Center”.

  7. Oh, and:
    “When construction began in 2008 on building a new Transbay terminal and a six-story Transbay Transit Center ? long celebrated as the “Grand Central Station of the West” ? the project was estimated to cost $1.189 billion.
    But “due to numerous errors” that cost has since ballooned by 90 percent, or $1 billion, for a total project cost of $2.259 billion, according to a report by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose.”
    http://www.sfexaminer.com/sf-bail-
    transbay-project-costs-nearly-double/

    Plus:
    “Millennium Tower developers fire back, blame neighboring Transbay construction for sinking (Video) ”
    […]
    “It’s time to stop the finger pointing and find solutions, said the developers of the Millennium Tower, the 58-story luxury condo highrise in San Francisco that is sinking and tilting. Then they spent close to an hour at a Tuesday press conference explaining why the Transbay Joint Powers Authority is at fault for the mess. The TJPA has been digging an underground train tunnel adjacent to Millennium Tower.”
    https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/
    blog/real-estate/2016/09/millennium-tower
    -developer-sinking-tower-sf.html

    The tower sits on ‘friction pilings’; perfectly acceptable and approved by the city, and they work fine until someone comes in and starts digging holes around them and pumping the water out.
    My taxes at work!

  8. The next decent sized earthquake will help sort it out. Mmmmmmmm pancakes.

  9. Sounds like a fantatic $2.2 billlion homeless hangout. Cant wait to visit and see all the heroin addicts around the building!

    1. “Sounds like a fantatic $2.2 billlion homeless hangout. Cant wait to visit and see all the heroin addicts around the building!”
      So far, the tents remain on the sidewalks at ground level, but it’s pretty obvious the ‘Homeless Coalition’ (paid with tax dollars) will demand view lots on the upper park level for the campers. And probably get them. Along with Safeway grocery deliveries.
      Added:
      You who get national news feeds may well get “The Benioff Transit Center” appellation, but us locals aren’t about to hear Marc’s name associated with such a fuck up.
      One of the local stations has ‘exclusive’ access to cameras on the highest building in SF, and if they are not required to do so, they still announce views ‘from atop the Sales Force Tower’.
      You think Reason folks are ‘incentivized’ by cocktail party invitations? Imagine being a SF TV station GM who allows that mess to be identified as in the “The Benioff Transit Center”! Fat chance you’d ever get a seating at Gary Danko’s or French Laundry again, sukka!

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