Bus Rapid Transit finally coming to San Francisco’s Van Ness after 5 1/2 years of construction, going over budget

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Bus Rapid Transit is coming to San Francisco’s Van Ness Avenue after five and a half years of construction. The project from Mission to Lombard streets has had its share of problems, including going over budget and over time.

Beyond bus service, the project also replaced a 100-year-old water main and sewer.

Three years later than originally promised at the start of construction, the SFMTA will finally celebrate the inception of Bus Rapid Transit this Friday.

RELATED: SF Civil Grand Jury releases report on why Van Ness construction is taking so long

On its website, SFMTA wrote, “We appreciate your patience as we revitalize the historic corridor.”

“It was just chaos,” said Farzin Kaveh of Audio Symphony, a business on Van Ness Avenue.

The project has plagued businesses like Audio Symphony for years. Kaveh says Audio Symphony now operates by appointment only.

“We figured with construction and pandemic, there is no sense of trying to do business as usual,” said Kaveh.

RELATED: SF’s Van Ness Improvement Project has some calling it ‘Van Mess’

“Well certainly the way this went down was far more impactful on small businesses than it should have been,” said San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

“They didn’t deserve this. This was awful and devastating,” Mandelman continued.

According to the SFMTA, the project created new, physically separated transit lanes so that buses could travel without getting caught up in traffic and passengers could board more easily.

It also includes extensive utility maintenance like the replacement of sewer pipes and water mains.

That’s where some of the problems began.

“We just didn’t have enough information before to put a shovel in the ground,” SFMTA’s Director of Streets Division Tom Maguire admitted in October.

A San Francisco Civil Grand Jury report found the SFMTA could have reduced delays and cost overruns had it done more exploratory potholing, digging a hole to see where the underground utilities were actually, prior to the start of construction.

The report found the cost of the project increased to approximately $346 million, 23% over budget.

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“It took way too long and cost way too much to get here,” said Mandelman.

“I hope there are lessons learned from this because we don’t want this to be the story with every major infrastructure project we undertake,” he continued.

One of those lessons – that the city shouldn’t definitely be forced to go with the cheapest bid. The supervisor has said he will likely introduce legislation around that this spring.

He says he does believe come Friday, people will finally experience the benefits of this project.

Farzin Kaveh can’t wait.

“Joy, we’re happy,” said Kaveh.

The project’s contractor, Walsh Construction, did not respond to a request for comment.

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