The San Francisco Municipal Railway’s critics are nothing if not dogged, and some self-appointed Muni watchdogs are persistent in their insistence that the Central Subway project — the $1.6 billion, 1.4-mile long link between the CalTrain station and Chinatown — be abandoned in light of the beleaguered transit agency’s ongoing fiscal crisis.
To those who wish the Central Subway project dead, alas — ceremonial ground broke Tuesday (and the first phase of construction, relocation of electrical, telephone and water lines, has been underway for about a month). But some consolation may come via an unlikely source: Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the newly-minted chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (which decides where and how to spend $80 million in annual sales tax revenue, all dedicated to transit).
Central Subway supporters have repeated time and again that the bulk of the project’s cost are federal — over $1 billion has been pledged from the Federal Transportation Administration. The project certainly won’t happen if that money isn’t delivered — it’s been promised, pledged, but not delivered. As of now, the only money actually delivered to the project has been almost all local — $214 million of the $244 million the MTA has received has all been County Transportation Authority money, Mirkarimi told the Appeal.
“The foundational dollars are coming from the TA… I think that’s been lost in translation,” Mirkarimi said Tuesday after the ceremonial turning of dirt (neither Mirkarimi nor Board President David Chiu nor Mayor Gavin Newsom donning hard hats for the occasion).
That money also pays for other major infrastructure projects — the Doyle Drive rebuild and the eventual Bus Rapid Transit routes that will grace Geary Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue — at the same time Muni is asking for chunks of the same change to pay for Muni operations. MTA has asked for about $7 million to pay to renovate some of its buses.
So there you have it, folks — the project is happening, and thus far, you have paid for the majority of it.