SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – San Francisco’s central subway project will move forward after approval of a $233 million contract to dig a tunnel underground to Chinatown.

For supporters of the central subway, like Metropolitan Transportation Agency Board President Tom Nolan, this is an important milestone: selecting the contractor to bore 8,200 feet of underground tunnels to runs metro trains from Moscone Center and Union Square to Chinatown.

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”It’s just so densely populated, by all the people that live there of course and all of the businesses, but people also visit there every single day,” said Nolan.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

However, critics such as architect Howard Wong, claim the $1.6 billion central subway project is too expensive and won’t relieve traffic congestion, because it will encourage people to drive into the area by cutting down on existing public transit.

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”Its own statistics have continuously changed, but it does reflect a large decrease in the surface buses running on Stockton and Columbus,” said Wong.

Chinatown residents have been clamoring for the central subway ever since the Embarcadero freeway was demolished after the Loma Prieta earthquake.

The goal is to have it ready for passengers by 2018.

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