Transbay Transit Center Is Open Again After 280-Day Shutdown

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A view of the top of the Salesforce Transit Center from 21st floor of 201 Mission St., where the Transbay Joint Powers Authority has its offices. (Chloe Veltman/KQED)

San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center threw its doors open Monday -- well, partway, in any case -- nine months and a week after cracks in structural steel shut down the brand-new $2.2 billion facility.

Starting at 6 a.m. this 1st day of July, the public once again had access to the center's entrance hall, at Mission Street between Fremont and First streets, and its 5.4-acre rooftop park for the first time since the facility's emergency shutdown last September.

The park, which will be open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily through Oct. 31, features stunning views of downtown and daily arts and recreational programs.

The views and programs will be much the same as before the closure, but one key piece of the park will be different.

The rooftop proved so popular in the six weeks it was open last year that its rubberized walkway surface wore out. Center officials said repairs were under warranty, and during the facility's closure the pathway was replaced with concrete.

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Also new Monday: The transit center's long-awaited gondola, which lifts passengers on a 30-second ride from Mission and Fremont streets 68 vertical feet to the park level. The ride is a one-way trip. You'll need to take the facility's escalator back down to ground level.

What about transit service at the transit center?

It will take until sometime in August before the facility resumes its main function as a terminal for transbay bus commuters.

The facility's bus deck will become available on Monday, but the agencies that will operate from the center plan to spend several weeks retraining drivers to use the facility. Those operators include AC Transit -- the center's main bus service -- as well as Muni, SamTrans and Contra Costa County's Westcat.

For the time being, those agencies will continue operating most of their service from the temporary transbay terminal at Folsom and Beale streets.

The transit center opened last Aug. 12 but closed on Sept. 25 after workers discovered fractures in a girder supporting the facility's rooftop park.

The discovery led to a lengthy investigation into why the massive steel beam cracked. (The cause: Flaws introduced into the 40-inch steel girders by cutting torches used to make what have been called "access holes" for welding.)

The cracked girder and an identical beam that engineers believed could be subject to a similar failure were reinforced.

At the same time, an outside engineering panel reviewed the building's design in search of other trouble spots. Last month the panel declared the building structurally sound and safe to reopen.