San Francisco

2nd Cracked Beam Found at New $2.2B San Francisco Transbay Terminal

San Francisco's brand new Transbay Transit Center will remain closed at least until next week after crews on Wednesday discovered a second crack in one of the steel beams

A second beam in San Francisco’s celebrated new $2 billion transit terminal shows signs of cracking, an official said Wednesday, a day after a crack in a nearby support beam shut down the building that opened just last month.

The first crack found by workers installing roof tiles Tuesday spans a beam holding up a park over the three-block-long Salesforce Transit Center and runs over a downtown street, said Mark Zabaneh, executive director of Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which operates the facility.

He said the problems were localized to that area of the transit hub but it would remain closed “at least through the end of next week” as inspections continued. It’s not yet clear what caused the cracks at the facility that includes a bus deck, a towering sky-lit central entrance hall and a rooftop park with an outdoor amphitheater.

The Salesforce Transit Center opened to great fanfare last month as an embodiment of San Francisco’s reputation for innovation and sustainability. Its rooftop park would provide green space for people to socialize while commuters could take buses from the multistory building that spans three city blocks.

Now, the transit hub named for a cloud computing giant appears to be the latest example of problems in a city brimming with homelessness and poor infrastructure. The shutdown, which officials say will last until the facility can be declared safe, caused chaos during Tuesday’s evening rush hour.

“We’re working hard to rectify the situation,” Zabeneh said. “We’re very disappointed with what happened; we will get to the bottom of this.”

Mayor London Breed said the building would stay closed until it was safe to reopen. Its role in the broader transportation system is too important “not to act quickly to have definitive answers for the public, and someone needs to be held accountable once the cause is determined,” she said in a statement.

Engineers decided to shut down the station around 5 p.m. Tuesday, as rush hour started, once they learned the extent of the cracking.

The transit hub, a commanding presence in the city’s South of Market neighborhood where construction is booming, 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.

Zabaneh said he did not believe the cracked beams are connected to ongoing problems at Millennium Tower.

Engineer Joe Maffei also said the troubles at the terminal appear “completely unrelated” to the Millennium Tower’s sinking and tilting. He said there have been no public reports of similar settling problems with the terminal.

The first crack was found near a weld on a stress-bearing horizontal beam and the second on a parallel beam, Zabaneh said. American steel was used in the center’s construction, he said.

Zabeneh said the steel came from Stockton-based Herrick Corp. The beams looked fine when they were installed in January 2016. The problem could be in the fabrication, installation or design of the beams, he said.

Construction experts say it’s exceedingly rare for steel girders that support buildings to crack.

The Grand Hall is the main entrance to the Salesforce Transit Center. Public art adorns the floor and the windows above, as you walk under the giant skylight. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
The structure supporting the skylight in the Grand Hall goes all the way down to the basement, bringing daylight to what planners hope will one day be a bustling train station. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Two stories beneath the Transit Center, the “train box” has room for six tracks surrounding three platforms — but right now, it’s just a concrete box, while planners search for funding to extend Caltrain and finish California’s high speed rail project. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Though there are no trains yet, transit planners say they’ve saved tax dollars by making the Transit Center “rail ready.” This is the spot where tracks could one day curve southward under 2nd Street to connect with today’s existing Caltrain tracks. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
With no trains yet, the $2 billion Transit Center has been called the world’s most expensive bus terminal. But commuters say they love the clean, covered platforms where buses arrive on a dedicated ramp from the Bay Bridge, instead of congested streets. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
For many, the highlight of the Transit Center will be its sprawling rooftop park, spanning 4 city blocks, in a neighborhood that was sorely lacking green space. BlackRock, IBM, Slack, Trulia and Deloitte are just a few of the offices with park views. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Far more than just open space, Salesforce Park has a packed schedule of vendors and free programs keeping it lively. Yoga, art, books, games, hot dogs and beer are among the initial offerings. Planners say activities help keep the park safe and clean. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Engineer David Friedman said it’s likely the beams arrived without cracks, but that once the weight of the roof garden and other structures were added, “new stresses may have exacerbated the possible fabrication flaws.”

The beams likely passed inspection after installation, Maffei said.

“If that’s the case, it’s likely welding caused the problem,” he said.

Buses were rerouted to a temporary transit center about two blocks away that was used during the center’s construction. A downtown street that runs under the beam also was ordered closed indefinitely, causing traffic chaos at the same time some streets were closed for a conference sponsored by Salesforce that was expected to draw 170,000 attendees.

Numerous towering condo buildings have gone up in the booming South of Market neighborhood and several multistory construction projects are underway. Officials voted in 2012 to scrap building-height restrictions to encourage growth near the transit hub as San Francisco lures technology companies from Silicon Valley.

Julianna Cheng, 32, who lives in the neighborhood, burst out laughing when asked about cracking in the $2.2 billion transit center.

“I find it disappointing, but also kind of amusing because they built this really big, they spent a lot of money,” she said. “I feel like the money should have been used for a lot of other things.”

“I don’t know. Maybe this is a sign,” she said.

The transit terminal, coined the “Grand Central of the West,” opened after nearly a decade under construction. It is expected to accommodate 100,000 passengers each weekday and up to 45 million people a year.

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

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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