Van Ness closure extends through weekend

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - One block of one of San Francisco's major north-south arteries will be closed through the weekend as construction crews work around the clock to complete the first phase of a pedestrian tunnel underneath Van Ness Avenue/Highway 101.

San Francisco's Friday rush hour traffic was worse than usual. Construction crews closed a busy block of Van Ness Avenue between Geary and Post, causing backups on surrounding streets.

"I don't know how to get to the place where I'm going. I'm going to the restaurant. Now I have to go the other way. Yeah, it's terrible," said one driver who confronted the detour at Post and Van Ness.

"I been cursing, it's traffic everywhere downtown, Fourth Street and Market. It was just crazy. So I have to make a U-turn, I don't care if I get a ticket."

At rush hour, traffic lines were long, and some tempers were short. People just wanted to get out of the gridlock.

"Today it's taking yeah, twice, maybe three times as long, it's bumper to bumper out here," said Albert Lopez of Daly City.

"The traffic this morning was impossible. I was 15 minutes late having left 15 minutes earlier," said Kathleen Dracup of San Francisco.

The general contractor HerreroBOLDT is building the pedestrian tunnel for California Pacific Medical Center's new hospital. The tunnel will stretch 124 feet across Van Ness to connect the hospital with medical offices across the street and the top of the tunnel will be about 15 feet underground.

To help people navigate the detours, the contractor has hired 50 SFMTA traffic control officers and about 20 flaggers for the detour zones, which run up along Franklin Street and down Gough Street.

While SF Muni buses were allowed through the closure forced some riders to get off at a different stop causing confusion and pedestrians faced a detour with one sidewalk completely closed.

"It's kind of annoying because when the crosswalk is on for you to walk, you actually can't walk cause there are cars going through so we kind of discovered that when we were walking. It's annoying," said Stephanie Coca of San Francisco.

It's annoying for some residents too, who might hear work and noises in the middle of the night. The construction crews say the weekend overnight closures were deemed most suitable instead of the alternate plans that would have had overnight construction stretching 9 to 20 months. Paul Klemish, the HerreroBOLDT Project Director says they are facing their own challenges, cramming cranes and big drilling machines into a small space and a small window of time.

"You can see by the machinery, they're very close to each other, we can only get two drilling rigs in at a time, so that kind of limits our schedule," Klemish told KTVU.

The project manager says the detours shouldn't impact the Cherry Blossom Festival which opens this weekend a few blocks away in Japantown.


The plan is to reopen Van Ness at 12:01 a.m. Monday and cover the holes with metal plates until the next three day closure on April 24th.