Sixteenth Street Improvement Project to Continue this Fall

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Construction will be returning to 16th Street this fall. The work, at the behest of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), will involve widening sidewalks at bus stops and installing boarding islands to make public transportation faster and increase pedestrian safety.

Driving the changes, and of keen interest to Potrero Hill residents, is SFMTA’s plan to re-route the 22-bus southward on 16th Street into Mission Bay in order to serve new housing, the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center and the Chase Center, which’ll house the Golden State Warriors in 2019. Currently, the 22 parts with 16th Street at Kansas Street, serves the 18th Street commercial corridor and travels into Dogpatch.

According to Erica Kato, SFMTA deputy spokesperson, community input is being gathered to identify a replacement bus; no decision has yet been made. SFMTA representatives met with the Potrero Boosters last winter, and, under the “Dogpatch-Central Waterfront Area Transit Connections Study” initiative, have been evaluating the neighborhood’s needs, the results of which will be released this summer.

Potrero Boosters president and District 10 Supervisor candidate, J.R. Eppler, said the neighborhood group has been pushing for a route that follows the current 22 way but extends further into Dogpatch. Instead of continuing south on 18th Street to Third Street and ending at 20th Street, the line would turn onto Minnesota Street to Esprit Park, and then from Indiana Street to 23rd Street before terminating between Third and Illinois streets.

In 2015, SFMTA proposed using the 33-bus to replace the 22; neighborhood protest scuttled the plan. The 33, which travels alongside the 22 on 16th Street from Mission Street to Potrero Avenue, stops at San Francisco General Hospital; hospital staff, seniors and disability advocates opposed re-routing it.

Construction on 16th Street was originally planned to start this month but was delayed due to excessively high bids submitted by contractors. “For that reason, SFMTA rebid the project with some minor modifications to get more favorable prices,” said Kato. The project, including already completed planning and design phases, is expected to cost $67.5 million.

The City has identified the 2.3-mile stretch of 16th Street between Church and Third streets as a high injury corridor, among the 12 percent of streets where more than 70 percent of San Francisco’s severe traffic collisions occur.  Improvements to the boulevard are part of the Vision Zero goal, adopted in 2014 to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.

“The 16th Street Improvement Project aims to improve transit reliability and travel time for the 18,000 customers who ride Muni along the corridor on an average weekday, while enhancing safety and accessibility,” reported Kato.

Construction will feature two phases. The first, from Potrero Avenue to Third Street, will be completed by the fall of 2019, at which time the 22-bus will be re-routed. The second, from Church Street to Potrero Avenue, will be finished in the spring of 2020. Last year, SFMTA implemented bus-and-taxi-only lanes on the stretch from Vermont to Fourth streets. The transit-only lanes will eventually be extended to Bryant Street in both directions, and to Church Street heading westbound.

A left turn restriction during commuter hours was implemented in both directions at Potrero Avenue, and a button-activated flashing beacon at Missouri Street was added to assist pedestrian and bike crossing. The beacon will be permanently upgraded to a traffic signal when construction begins.

Rachel Hyden, San Francisco Transit Riders executive director, said she’s heard that motorists have been complying with the transit-only lanes. Such lanes, as well as left turn prohibitions, keeps busses from being stuck behind other vehicular traffic, while the wider sidewalks and boarding islands allow passengers to embark more quickly without buses having to pull in and out into congested traffic, according to Hyden. Once the project is complete, she said the goal is for the 22 to travel the stretch in just four minutes.

As part of the project, bicycle traffic was shifted to 17th Street last year to make room for the transit-only lanes. A continuous bike path from Church to Mississippi streets has gotten mixed reviews. As no parking spaces were removed, the path is sandwiched between parked cars and vehicular traffic for most of the stretch. East of 101, the only plastic barriers protecting bikers are on the two blocks between San Bruno Avenue and Kansas Street.

Chris Cassidy, spokesperson for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said he’d like to see a design change for bikes heading westward on 16th Street. In order to shift over to the bike lanes on 17th Street, cyclists have to take a left onto Mississippi, which he said is a confusing intersection compounded by being under Interstate-280. SFMTA, however, plans to extend the bike path along the north side of 16th Street to Missouri, the next block west.

Once construction is complete, streetscape improvements will be added, including new trees, landscaping, unique sidewalk designs and bus shelters with locally-themed images.