Herrara Blasts, Mayor Lee Defends SF Chinatown Subway Plan

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee defended the Central Subway plan after a rival mayoral candidate, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, criticized the project’s spiraling costs and dwindling ridership projections.

Herrera on Wednesday dropped his support for the underground metro line now being excavated through Union Square, saying the now $1.5 billion price tag was too high for a route better served by increasing the number of buses.

“The project that is on the boards now has ceased to be a prudent investment,” Herrera said, sparking a lively back-and-forth on a transit project recently derided by a civil grand jury as a boondoggle rather than a wise public investment.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

Herrera said the future direction of the Central Subway project deserved to be a prominent issue in the San Francisco mayor’s race.

“I encourage us to have the debate, and I encourage Mayor Lee to state his position as well,” Herrera said.

Construction of the long-promised 1.7-mile subway connecting the Caltrain Terminal to central Market Street and Chinatown was estimated at $648 million in 2003.

Mayor Lee said it would be disastrous to abort the project, prominently supported by his political ally, Chinatown power broker Rose Pak.

“I think it’s political shenanigans,” Lee said, adding that Herrera had been silent for years on the project.

Pak has argued the subway was necessary to fix economic development that stagnated in Chinatown once the city demolished the Embarcadero freeway after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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