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Monday, January 11, 2010

SF Muni gets FRA OK for Central Subway to begin final design

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The Federal Transit Administration has granted the San Francisco Muni approval to enter into Final Design for the Central Subway Project, which is Phase II of the Third Street Light Rail Project that will connect communities from Visitacion Valley to Chinatown with modern, convenient light rail. The Third Street Light Rail project represents the most significant investment in the expansion of the Muni system in generations.

"This federal endorsement is crucial to building the Central Subway and improving our environment," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "Our appreciation goes out to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer for their continued leadership and support of light rail expansion in San Francisco."

This FTA endorsement marks a crucial milestone for the Central Subway project. Approval to enter into Final Design means that for every dollar the SFMTA spends on Final Design for the Central Subway Project, the SFMTA will be reimbursed with federal funds.

In 2009, the Central Subway project received a positive review as part of the technically rigorous federal New Starts program with a "medium-high" project justification rating and "medium-high" overall rating. The project also received a "high" rating for both environmental and transit supportive land use benefits. The project recently received $6 million as part of the federal Fiscal Year 2010 transportation appropriations bill.

Approval to enter into Final Design comes as the Central Subway is moving forward on a variety of fronts. The project is negotiating and awarding design contracts for the tunnel, stations and systems work, and this month utility relocation work is beginning near the tunnel portal and the future Moscone Station in the South of Market neighborhood.

The 1.7-mile Central Subway will extend light rail service with a surface stop on 4th Street near Brannan Street and subway service with stations at the Moscone Center, Union Square and Chinatown neighborhoods. It will operate as an extension of the T Third light rail line, which opened for full revenue service in April 2007. The two-phase Third Street Light Rail Project will unite the City's established civic, business, retail and cultural centers with the diverse communities along the light rail line and encourage economic revitalization along the entire corridor.

The project is expected to begin service in December 2018 and is estimated to cost $1.6 billion, with almost $1 billion slated to come from the federal government. The SFMTA continues to work with local, state and regional partners to secure non-federal funding to work toward a Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration in Fiscal Year 2011.

"This welcome news is a great way to start the New Year," said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. "The Central Subway project will increase Muni ridership, reduce our carbon footprint and provide construction jobs for San Franciscans at a critical time."

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