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San Francisco's Transbay Terminal Nearing First Phase Of Completion

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The Transbay Transit Center is on its way to becoming an iconic destination in San Francisco.

San Francisco's Transbay Terminal Nearing First Phase Of Completion
Transbay Terminal Center is surrounded by the Millennium Tower, 181 Fremont and Salesforce Tower.

The Transbay District has some of the tallest towers in the entire city, and the more than $2B Transbay Transit Center will offer a four-block rooftop park, 100K SF of retail space and an underground train station.

Surrounding the center on more than a dozen blocks and parcels are various office and residential projects, such as the Millennium Tower, Salesforce Tower, 181 FremontPark Tower and many others. A condo/hotel at 555 Howard St. a block away will provide 69 condos and a 255-room hotel. Oceanwide Center also is well on its way after breaking ground in late 2016.

San Francisco's Transbay Terminal Nearing First Phase Of Completion
A rendering of the rooftop park of Transbay Transit Center

The crown jewel of the transit center will be a 5.4-acre park with hundreds of trees from all over the world within 13 different gardens. Workers have been hoisting trees 70 feet into the air in the middle of the night to plant into the new park. An 800-seat rooftop amphitheater will host concerts and performances and there will be a jogging track as well. The center is expected to open by the end of 2017.

A suspension bridge will allow buses to connect with the Bay Bridge without the need to venture through San Francisco’s busy streets. It will serve many bus lines, including AC Transit, Muni, Golden Gate Transit and Greyhound. Among the biggest unknowns is whether it will connect with a high-speed rail line or Caltrain.

A Bumpy Road Ahead?

San Francisco's Transbay Terminal Nearing First Phase Of Completion
A cross-section rendering of the Transbay Transit Center

Caltrain wants to expand its terminus from King and 4th Street to better serve the 100,000 middle- and high-income jobs within a half mile of the Transbay Terminal, but it needs to be electrified first. The underground train station at the Transbay Center would not work with the current diesel engine, which would emit strong fumes.

Electrification has become a highly contentious issue, and state lawmakers are seeking to put a stop to the project altogether. Because electrification would support high-speed rail, Republican lawmakers are against it. They want the state to perform an audit of the cost of high-speed rail before the project proceeds.

Without high-speed rail and Caltrain, the terminal faces considerable operating costs, about $20M per year, and would only serve about 14,000 Transbay bus commuters as opposed to the originally estimated 100,000 commuters. The unknown future of the high-speed rail also has made the retail aspect of the center a big question mark since there would be less foot traffic than expected. A $647M federal grant for Caltrain's electrification project was cut by the Trump administration earlier in 2017, adding more difficulties.

The sinking and tilting Millennium Tower, which has led to a $200M lawsuit from homeowners, also creates problems for the terminal. Potential costs and liability from this tower led San Francisco’s supervisors to initially withhold funding for the second phase, which includes the underground rail extension. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board approved $5.5M in April for the downtown extension tunnel. If there are no more delays, trains could be using the terminal by 2026.

Find out more about the future of the Transbay Transit Center at Bisnow's Future of SoMa and Transbay event May 16.