At the start of 2023, San Francisco’s Central Subway began underground transit operations along Stockton and Fourth Streets, bringing rail service back to Chinatown after a nearly 72-year absence.
The new Central Subway line follows a route that was used by the F-Stockton streetcar line from 1914 until 1951, when the rail service to this part of the city was discontinued and replaced by buses.
The Central Subway connects the South of Market Yerba Buena district to Union Square and Chinatown, adding 1.7 miles to the 5.6-mile Third Street (T-Third) Light Rail Line completed in 2007 by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). The at-grade T-Third line follows Third Street through the rapidly developing Mission Bay, Bayshore and Hunters Point neighborhoods, ending in Visitacion Valley at the city’s southern limit.
SFMTA contracted WSP USA to design and provide design support during construction for the three underground stations. The firm was also the lead designer for the portal and 1.6 miles of twin, bored tunnel.
“SFMTA’s Central Subway vastly improves transportation through some of San Francisco’s busiest areas,” said Zylah Doria, WSP project manager for the station design package. “By being able to leverage all the knowledge and experience from our joint venture partners, subconsultants and internal staff, we effectively collaborated to find the right solutions for our client.”
“We had an effective partnership with the Central Subway Design Group during design and design support during construction,” added Nadeem Tahir, project director for SFMTA.
The project has been in the works since the mid-1990’s when San Francisco laid out its long-range plans and phasing for a $2 billion, new core subway and rail infrastructure system to improve north/south and east/west travel through four corridors connecting neighborhoods to the financial district and downtown.
The devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the resulting elimination of the Embarcadero Freeway heightened the need to bring rail service to Chinatown and the community rallied to support the project. Funds that would have been used to rebuild the freeway were repurposed towards the Central Subway concept, and construction on the project began with advance utility relocations in 2010 followed by the award of construction contracts for the tunnels in 2011 and the stations, systems and trackwork in 2013.
“It’s a Future Ready® project that began more than 30 years ago and a program that required a great deal of public and political involvement to advance,” said John Fisher, senior managing director for state and local government affairs at WSP. “We are honored to have worked on it for the past 20 years through our incredible partnership with the SFMTA. This entire project is like a history lesson, and a shining example of how to build better city transit that serves underfunded and underserved communities.”