- The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency could have to pay "tens of millions of dollars" more to fix deficiencies in the $50 million Twin Peaks Tunnel Improvement project, an official told the San Francisco County Transportation Authority at a meeting earlier this month.
- As a way to save time and money, SFMTA officials and the contractor, a joint venture between Shimmick Construction and Con-Quest Contractors, decided to reuse the tunnel's existing ballast — a rocky bed underneath the tracks that is meant to promote stability and provide drainage. However, the ballast was not cleaned or treated prior to its reuse, so there are concerns that, if left in place, it could create muddy conditions that will impact track stability, particularly in an area known as the Eureka curve.
- The SFMTA plans to start the replacement on Nov. 30. That and other corrections and maintenance, including replacement of the overhead catenary system (OCS) splice connectors, overhead lines, track fasteners, rails, switch machine, trackway adjustment throughout the tunnel, rail grinding, installation of new subway lights and trackway and OCS tests, will take approximately three months.
The ballast replacement process will not require the installation of new track, but contractors will have to remove the existing track in order to lay the new ballast bed.
The SFMTA said it is working out the extra costs with Shimmick-Con-Quest, which has a $40.9 million contract to perform the tunnel work and expects to issue the joint venture a task order in the near future.
When asked by SFCTA board if the ballast issue could have been avoided if it had been escalated to higher-ups in the agency, Jeffrey Tumlin, the SFMTA's director of transportation, said that there is a fear of "looking bad" on the part of some staff members.
"Well, nothing makes us look bad like failing to deliver decent service or failing to deliver a project on time," he told board members.
The SFMTA, Tumlin said, is working to change that culture by encouraging employees to come forward with problems and engaging in more productive communication. The agency, he said, is working on these and other issues like its approach to procurement and project management. Tumlin said that the way the agency currently bids work and selects contractors does not necessarily promote the best value.
In 2018, a worker fatality on the project led to initial changes in how the SFMTA reviews contractors before awarding them work. A Shimmick worker was killed by a steel beam as another worker, according to Cal/OSHA, was pushing railcars into the tunnel with a rail crane. The state safety agency said the worker who was operating the crane was not properly trained.
After that incident, the SFMTA said it would conduct background checks into contractors' safety records and not rely on the information provided in prebid questionnaires. Shimmick allegedly did not reveal that it had safety violations in the 10 years before bidding on the tunnel project.