Construction begins in SF on key part of high-speed rail project

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A key part of the high-speed rail project is now under construction in downtown San Francisco.

Governor Jerry Brown broke ground on Tuesday on what he hopes will be his legacy project -- the high-speed rail connecting the state's population centers, Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

The new Transbay Terminal takes up a four-block area in the South of Market area.

Architects call it the Grand Central Station of the west. Work has been underway on San Francisco's $1.9 billion Transbay Transit Center since the demolition of the old terminal back in 2010.

The project is transforming four blocks of South of Market into a hub that will eventually serve 100,000 passengers a day.

"There are 11 different transit agencies from the Easy Bay, North Bay, up and down the Peninsula. All the buses that come through the city will come through the transit center. On top of that, ultimately, when our phase two is built, is Caltrain and high-speed rail," Senior Construction Manager Dennis Turchon said.

The vision for that $68 billion rail line is to zip passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in three hours with Bay Area stations including Gilroy, San Jose, Millbrae and ending at San Francisco's new center.

The ongoing construction fascinates the South of Market lunchtime crowd. "There's been construction for a long time now. And also, I'm excited to see it finished when it opens," San Francisco worker Mark Summers said.

The Transbay Transit Center is designed for 100,000 square-feet of retail shops. The centerpiece will be a huge glass column and on top of the center, a 5.4-acre public park.

The project has created about 8,400 jobs so far nationwide, including half here in the Bay Area.

Derek Turner, 18, is an apprentice carpenter from the Redding area, proud to work on a landmark project.

"That's one of the big reasons I did it. It's because we're building America. It's the biggest job ever in San Francisco. I'm honored to be part of it," Turner said.

The construction manager says they are on track to open for bus operations in late 2017.
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