Agency Says Contractor Installed 3.2 Miles of Wrong Track

May 10, 2018
The Central Subway project is San Francisco's light rail extension

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says contractor Tutor Perini laid down 17,000 linear feet of substandard track on the Central Subway project and wants a do-over.

The Central Subway project is San Francisco's light rail extension to SFO, running mostly underground to bypass surface traffic. The project began in 2010 and tunnel boring was complete in 2014.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, in a letter sent April 18, the city told Tutor Perini the track installed was 'standard strength' steel, not 'high strength' steel as specified by contract. SFMTA said the higher-strength steel was selected to last longer before maintenance is required.

The letter written by SFMTA Program Manager of Project Delivery Eric Stassevitch to Tutor Perini Central Subway Program Manager Pat Jennings alleges that Tutor Perini and subcontractor Con-Quest Contractors “have been installing steel rails that are not in compliance with [contract] specifications.” Those specifications call for “high-strength, control cooled or vacuum treated carbon steel tee rail” meeting specific requirements.

Stassevitch said the non-conforming standard strength rails were to be promptly removed and Tutor Perini must pay “all claims, costs, losses and damages.”

The city specified the high strength rails because they last longer before maintenance is required and may add years of service, according to Gerald Cauthen, a retired supervisor engineer.

“Trains run over the steel and it causes vacuum pockets,” he said. “Those pockets gradually get bigger and you can feel it if you ride that train.”

The Central Subway project is already behind schedule and won't be completed until 2021, more than a year past the original finish date. The job has been running millions of dollars over budget. Tutor Perini has said the additional costs and delays have been due to having to relocate Pacific Gas and Electric  power lines and encountering harder-than-expected rock while excavating the tunnels.

 image: SFMTA