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Muni Blames PG&E for Spiraling $15M Costs, Years of Delays in Train Upgrade Struggle

Written by Garrett LeahyPublished Dec. 13, 2022 • 2:55pm
The new Central Subway line arrives at Rose Pak Station in Chinatown. | Juliana Yamada for The Standard

A multimillion dollar upgrade to boost Muni’s train capacity has been hit with spiraling costs and years of delays. City transit bosses say the issues were “primarily caused by PG&E activity.”

This is not the first time the project’s budget has increased or been delayed. 

The original one-year contract was authorized in April 2018, with construction beginning in June that year. The contract was then changed three times, extended by 360 days, and saw costs increase by nearly $1.5 million.

The latest change to the contract will now add a further 950 days, moving an already delayed completion date from June 6, 2020, to Jan. 12, 2023, according to a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) spokesman.

With the latest delay, the total cost of the electrical system upgrade has increased from roughly $11.3 million originally to more than $15 million.

The project’s estimated completion is now over three and a half years beyond the original planned completion date.

More Power, More Trains

The new Central Subway line departs Rose Pak Station in Chinatown on opening day. | Juliana Yamada for The Standard

The King Substation Improvement Project aims to bolster Muni’s electrical system near Oracle Park.

The completed works would boost train traffic on the N and T lines to Oracle Park, the Chase Center and along the Central Subway, according to agency documents.

“Due to the anticipated developments and projects in the surrounding area, including the Central Subway, Oracle Park, and the Chase Center, the demand for light rail service is expected to increase, potentially overloading the existing feeder circuits in the current King Substation,” agency documents said.

SFMTA spokesperson Stephen Chun said: “There are no [current] impacts to the transit system because a mobile substation is currently supplying the power.”

The agency’s board of directors unanimously passed a contract extension and increased the project budget on Tuesday afternoon.

If the contract extension passes, the agency will consider the project as running on-time, said Chun.

“At this time, MTA is not facing further delay on the project. This contract modification is a global settlement resolving all issues related to past delays,” Chun said.

PG&E ‘Caused Delays’

A PG&E electrical substation
In an aerial view, a PG&E electrical substation is visible in front of the San Francisco skyline on January 26, 2022. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“There were several PG&E activities that caused delays: boring across King Street, subsequent service connection delays to the mobile substation,” said Chun. 

Further delays came after PG&E requested a video of completed tunneling works so the utility firm could check for damage to their infrastructure and demand compensation if needed, agency documents said.

PG&E then took 10 months to review the footage, and another year afterward to power on the temporary substation. That added significant delays and costs to the project, according to the agency.

Transit bosses also said the pandemic and a fire in the Central Subway during its construction added further delays. 

The contractor in charge of the work, DMZ Builders, had to suspend construction work while the agency met PG&E’s demands, but DMZ still had to perform administrative work and keep the construction site secure during the delays.

DMZ Builders and members of the SFMTA board did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“PG&E disagrees with the SFMTA description of the timeline and delays. We have communicated our position with SFMTA and the SF Public Utilities Commission consistently since 2018, and will continue putting safety first for our customers in San Francisco while we work closely with the SFMTA toward project completion,” a PG&E spokesperson said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a new PG&E statement.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at

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