Safety project along upper Market Street wraps up

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday April 26, 2023
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LED lights installed at the base of palm trees along upper Market Street are part of a safety project that is nearing completion. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko
LED lights installed at the base of palm trees along upper Market Street are part of a safety project that is nearing completion. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko

A $10 million project aimed at improving pedestrian and bicycle safety along upper Market Street will be wrapping up in early May. It has also brought new lighting for the palm trees lining the roadway's median.

Work on the Upper Market Safety Project began last summer and was to have been largely finished in early December ahead of the busy holiday shopping season. A ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor London Breed also had been planned that month.

But the event had to be scrapped due to issues with the control system for the tree lights and a series of storms that had battered the city delaying the roadway work. The unseasonably wet start to 2023 further interrupted the timeline for the project.

Now, nearly all the work has been completed and just a few minor components are left to do.

"We're currently performing punch list work. That work should be complete within the next two weeks," said Alex M. Murillo, the manager of public affairs and communications for construction at San Francisco Public Works.

As of now, there is no date for a rescheduled ribbon-cutting ceremony with the mayor, city officials, and community leaders.

"As far as a ribbon-cutting ceremony goes, we'll circle back with invited speakers to determine availability and gauge interest. We'll update everyone if a new date is determined," Murillo told the Bay Area Reporter earlier this month.

The changes for one of the main arterial roadways through the city's LGBTQ Castro neighborhood are part of the Vision Zero plan to end pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. Collisions along upper Market Street have been a serious problem for years. Public Works coordinated with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency on the project.

As the B.A.R. first reported in October, the project added new bulb-outs meant to slow down vehicular traffic and make it safer for pedestrians crossing at several intersections along Market Street between Castro Street and Octavia Boulevard. According to the SFMTA, new sidewalk extensions and/or ramps have been constructed at 17 street corners, while the traffic signals have been either fully rebuilt and/or modified at the intersections of 16th and Noe streets, 15th and Sanchez streets, and at Hermann, Laguna, and Guerrero streets.

New decorative crosswalks in a brick pattern also aimed at slowing down drivers were added to two intersections. One is now found at Laguna and Market streets near the campus of Openhouse, the nonprofit provider of services and affordable housing for LGBTQ seniors, while the other is at Sanchez and 15th streets on the north side in front of the Chase bank.

The project also included the installation at the Muni boarding platforms on upper Market Street of orange-colored safety railings honoring the late gay supervisor Harvey Milk, who lived in the Castro and represented it at City Hall. According to the SFMTA, it also led last year to more than a dozen Rainbow Honor Walk bronze plaques memorializing deceased LGBTQ luminaries being embedded in the sidewalk along Market Street.

Safety guardrails contained quotes from the late San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, like these at a boarding platform near Guerrero and Market streets. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko  

Tree lights
There are also now 88 LED lights installed near the base of the palm trees in the commercial corridor. For most of the year they will be white, as they are currently, but can be switched to different colors throughout the year, like the green and red colors that had bathed the trees in December.

"Crews can connect remotely to change between programs — for example, rainbow colors for Pride, red, white and blue for Independence Day, orange and black for a Giants victory — that we have pre-loaded. However, larger-scale changes, such as creating new programs or new lighting schedules, need to be programmed on a computer and then manually uploaded to on-site control boxes," Murillo explained.

A weak Wi-Fi signal had initially impeded the technology that automatically turns the uplighting on and off, as the B.A.R. had reported in December. But the issue was resolved that month, said Murillo. The duration of the overnight lighting will depend on the seasons.

"The start and end time will vary throughout the year depending on daylight saving and when it starts getting dark. However, in the winter, the earliest they'd go on is around 5 p.m. and they'd turn off around 7:30 a.m." he explained in an emailed reply to the B.A.R.

The Castro Community Benefit District agreed to pay the electricity bill for the lighting. SFMTA estimated the yearly cost at $2,500.

The CBD has an ongoing fundraising campaign with a goal of at least $12,500 in donations to pay for five years worth of the new uplighting. To make a donation toward its Light Up The Night campaign, click here.

To learn more about the street safety project, visit Public Works' website or SFMTA's dedicated website.

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