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Crack in beam shuts down San Francisco's new $2-billion transit terminal

Crack in beam shuts down San Francisco's new $2-billion transit terminal
Mike Eshleman, with AC Transit, directs people away from San Francisco's Salesforce Transit Center after it was closed Tuesday when a crack was discovered in a support beam. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

San Francisco officials shut down the city’s celebrated new $2.2-billion transit terminal Tuesday after discovering a crack in a support beam under the center’s public roof garden.

Coined the “Grand Central of the West,” the Salesforce Transit Center opened in August near the heart of downtown after nearly a decade of construction. It was expected to accommodate 100,000 passengers each weekday, and up to 45 million people a year.

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Authorities in green vests immediately began moving people out of the building just as the afternoon rush hour hit Tuesday and rerouted buses to a temporary area about two blocks away that had been used during the center's construction.

Enveloped in wavy white sheets of a metal veil, the five-level center includes a bus deck, a towering sky-lit central entrance hall and a rooftop park with an outdoor amphitheater.

Officials said the transit center will remain closed while engineers assess the damage and inspect other beams.

The terminal is managed by the Transbay Joints Power Authority. Executive Director Mark Zabaneh said no other damage is suspected.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the complex faced delays in putting out contracts to bid, and the winning bids were ultimately higher than expected. The terminal’s cost rose from $1.6 billion at its 2010 groundbreaking to more than $2 billion in 2016 because of what one analyst called “optimistic assumptions,” according to the Chronicle.

The project, a commanding presence in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, was financed by land sales, federal stimulus grants, district fees and taxes, bridge tolls, and federal and state funds.

It sits adjacent to the so-called sinking condominium, Millennium Tower, which has settled about 18 inches since it opened over a former landfill in 2009. Homeowners have filed multiple lawsuits against the developer and the city, some alleging that construction of the transit center caused the Millennium Tower to sink.

The online business software company Salesforce, which opened its adjacent 61-story Salesforce Tower three months ago, bought naming rights to the center in 2017 as part of a 25-year, $110-million sponsorship agreement.

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