San Francisco city leaders on Wednesday announced the completion of the first phase of the Geary Rapid Project, a series of safety and transit improvements along Geary Boulevard and involving several neighborhood, including the Western Addition, Japantown, and the Tenderloin.
The $13 million project broke ground back in 2019, bringing numerous upgrades to a three-mile stretch of Geary Boulevard between Market and Stanyan streets -- described by pedestrian advocates as one the city's most dangerous corridors.
Among the improvements, a new signal and crosswalk at the Geary Boulevard and Buchanan Street intersection to better connect two neighborhoods; the Fillmore and Japantown, which became physically divided by the Geary Expressway and urban renewal redevelopment projects from past decades.
According to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director Jeffrey Tumlin, the new, safer connection can be the "start of healing" for both historic communities.
"The Geary Expressway was intentionally designed to exclude, to separate these neighborhoods from one another," he said. "This project was designed, in it's small way, to help restore the connectivity between Japantown and the Fillmore."
"Before Geary Boulevard, this was a community of mostly African Americans and Japanese Americans who lived together in harmony," Mayor London Breed said. "We were community. We were responsible for one another. We looked out and took care of one another and we built bridges and had incredible relationships and when this became, in essence, a freeway, there was a real divide. So, what we're trying to do in correcting the mistakes of the past is build those bridges and make them stronger, both with the people and the infrastructure."
Other improvements include new pedestrian signals, curb ramps, countdown signals, longer crosswalk times, and a reduction from four lanes to just two general lanes and one transit-only lane in each direction.
In addition, 34 new pedestrian bulb-outs sidewalk extensions at corners, many of which are in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood -- a part of the corridor which sees a disproportionate amount of traffic collisions, city officials said.
Also, 12 new transit bulb-out-sidewalk extensions for buses at bus stops have been added, reducing delays by allowing buses to stay in the lanes.
"These are communities that need more transit, that need better transit and this is a great step forward," Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said. "The 38-Geary is just one example of what we need to do. We need faster bus service. We need bus rapid transit."
According to city officials, the 38-Geary and 38-Geary Rapid bus lines are typically the routes with the most ridership.
The Geary Rapid Project's second phase will consist of similar safety and transit improvements along Geary Boulevard, from Stanyan Street to 34th Avenue. Transportation officials are currently in the design and outreach part of the second phase, city officials said.