SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A multi-million dollar transit project decades in the making is finally nearing completion, bringing San Francisco its very first bus rapid transit system.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) announced Tuesday the Van Ness Improvement Project, which will bring options for faster bus service to the Van Ness corridor, will be finalized after years of construction.
Planning began in 2004, and SFMTA began construction in 2016, but work was snarled by delays and unforeseen obstacles. SFMTA said it found stretches of unmapped, crumbling utilities in the ground beneath Van Ness Avenue.
"Now it is all properly mapped and repaired and fixed and now there are solid water lines that can resist earthquakes and there are real sewer lines," said Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA's Director of Transportation.
Business owners along the corridor have long complained of incessant construction and promises of an end date only to be advised of more delays.
Brian Bruckner, owner of Big Swingin' Cycles, previously told KPIX 5 that, on top of pandemic-era strains, took a toll on shop owners.
"Yeah, we lost some neighbors. I feel terrible for some of the businesses that maybe weren't as established as ours," Bruckner said. "Now we have this beautiful bus lane out here. You wonder if there's enough people here left to use it. Downtown seems like a ghost town."
SFMTA insisted Tuesday that anemic ridership it has seen in some parts of the city during the pandemic would not be an issue.
"Van Ness serves essential workers. It serves the main CPMC hospital right there at Geary and Van Ness, it serves all of the retail shops there along the corridor. And it serves commuters coming from the North Bay," Tumlin said.
Dedicated bus lanes that run north-south along Van Ness are promised to make bus rides 30 percent faster and more frequent per SFMTA's estimates.
Service will start running April 1st, including the 49 line for Muni and Golden Gate Transit commuter buses.
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