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Cracked Beam Keeps Salesforce Transit Center Closed; Commute Chaos Looms

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Officials confirmed Tuesday evening that the closure of San Francisco's Salesforce Transit Center after the discovery of a cracked steel beam will extend through the Wednesday morning commute.

Officials announced late Tuesday afternoon that a fissure in one of the steel beams in the ceiling of the center had forced the facility to be shut down.

According to a press release issued by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, crews found the crack in the beam supporting the ceiling of the third level bus deck on the eastern side of the transit center near Fremont Street.

By Tuesday evening, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority announced that the transit center closure would extend at least until noon Wednesday.

"Motorists are kindly asked to avoid driving downtown, transit riders are encouraged to allow extra time for their commute," officials said in a press release.

Officials with the authority plan to provide an update on the safety of the center by noon Wednesday.

"We're going to try to reopen as soon as possible but it's a safety issue," Zabaneh said.

BART has announced it will run long trains and monitor passenger flow throughout the commute hours to address impacts to service.

Both Muni and AC Transit officials are stationing transit ambassadors near the Salesforce Transit Center and the Temporary Transbay Terminal to guide riders through the service changes during the closure.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, after conferring with design engineers and contractors, will temporarily close the transit center," the press release read.

Workers installing ceiling panels discovered the crack around 10 a.m. on the third-level bus deck in an area near Fremont Street, Transbay Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Mark Zabaneh said.

Both drivers and transit riders are being asked to expect delays.

"It's very disappointing that we have to inconvenience the public but it's a safety issue and we take it very seriously. We can't take any chances," Zabaneh said. "We felt, out of an abundance of caution, that we should close the transit center and we're attempting to determine the cause of the crack and the measure we need to take to fix it."

According to Zabaneh, the beam was last inspected when it was first installed last year. An inspection is being done on the cracked beam and all steel beams throughout the center, Transbay Joint Powers Authority officials said.

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority said it has engineers looking into the possible cause of the crack.

According to structural engineer David Bonowitz, if a crack is visible with the naked eye, it's a big concern.

Something may have gone wrong. It may have been in the design, it may have been in the construction. It might have been inadvertently overloaded, bearing more weight than was expected. We don't know yet, said Bonowitz.

The agency is working with commercial construction contractors Webcor/Obayashi and structural engineers Thornton Tomasetti to investigate and repair the issue. They also have begun an exhaustive inspection of all steel beams throughout the transit center, according to officials.

At around 5:30 p.m., a portion of Fremont Street between Howard and Mission streets was also closed for inspections. It was not
immediately clear when Fremont Street would reopen.

Additionally, Beale Street between Mission and Howard streets has been closed.

Commuters are advised to contact their bus operator for transit information.

Bus riders were shocked to hear the news.

"I've also noticed that the escalator were going out of service within about a week of it opening," said bus rider Jennifer Medeiros. "It's too bad, because I think it's a gorgeous facility. But it seems like there are some issues with the construction slash architecture for the building."

Because of the closure, all transit operators including San Francisco Muni and AC Transit will temporarily provide bus service out of the nearby temporary Transbay Terminal at Howard and Main streets. Bus service will be operating out of the temporary terminal effective immediately.

The street closures were contributing to gridlock both getting into and out of the city. The Fremont Street closure disrupted the first direct off-ramp from the Bay Bridge, while the added bus traffic at the temporary terminal was congesting routes to get on the Bay Bridge.

And if all that wasn't enough, traffic south of Market Street was already at nightmare levels with the Dreamforce conference closure of Howard between Third and Fourth streets.

The SFMTA and AC Transit tweeted information about some of the lines that would be returning to operating at the temporary Transbay Terminal.

The $2.26 billion facility just opened on August 12.

Zabaneh said the Fremont Street closure could last until Wednesday at the earliest, and an update on the situation may come by noon.

"We're going to try to reopen as soon as possible but it's a safety issue," he said.

The beam was last inspected when it was first installed last year, according to Zabaneh.

The cracked support beam is the second embarrassing incident for the Salesforce Transit Center this month.

The visitor walkway around the rooftop park started crumbling about two weeks ago. A spokesperson said they would patch up the eroded sections as needed.



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