Twin Peaks Tunnel

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Twin Peaks Tunnel
Twin Peaks Tunnel.jpg
Twin Peaks Tunnel at Forest Hill station
LocationSan Francisco, California
CoordinatesEast portal:
37°45′43″N 122°26′13″W / 37.76194°N 122.43694°W / 37.76194; -122.43694
West portal:
37°44′29″N 122°27′56″W / 37.74139°N 122.46556°W / 37.74139; -122.46556
SystemMuni Metro
StartEureka Valley (closed)
EndWest Portal Station
No. of stations3
(2 open, 1 closed)
OpenedFebruary 3, 1918; 101 years ago (1918-02-03)
RebuiltJune 25 - August 24, 2018
OwnerSan Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
OperatorSan Francisco Municipal Railway
CharacterUnderground subway tunnel for light rail/streetcar system
Length11,675 ft (3,559 m)[1]:5
Line length2.27 mi (3.65 km)
No. of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
ElectrifiedOverhead lines, 600 V DC
Tunnel clearance25 ft (7.6 m)[2]
Route map
Surface tracks on Market Street
original portal
temporary portals
Eureka Valley
closed 1972
Forest Hill
West Portal
K Ingleside L Taraval M Ocean View
Inbound K Ingleside: sign changes to T Third Street

The Twin Peaks Tunnel is a 2.27-mile (3.65 km) long[2] light rail/streetcar tunnel in San Francisco, California. The tunnel runs under the Twin Peaks and is used by the K Ingleside/T Third Street, L Taraval, M Ocean View, and S Shuttle lines of the Muni Metro system.

The eastern entrance to the tunnel is located near the intersection of Market and Castro streets in the Castro neighborhood, and the western entrance is located at West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Street in the West Portal neighborhood. There are two stations along the tunnel, Forest Hill near the western end, and the now disused Eureka Valley near the eastern end.


August 1910 conceptual cutaway rendering of tunnel
The (now replaced) east portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel in February 1967

Plans for a tunnel extending from Market Street under Twin Peaks were first presented at the Merchants' Association banquet in May 1909; A. W. Scott Jr. spoke on the need for the tunnel to open up the western part of San Francisco to development, as "40,000 San Franciscans lived across the bay or in San Mateo county because of the lack of proper transportation in this city."[3] In April 1910, a committee named the Twin Peaks Convention was formed to plan the project, which would open the development of approximately one quarter of San Francisco's land area.[4]

Competing proposals[edit]

In July 1910 an architectural rendering was released of the eastern portal; the tunnel was initially envisioned as a two-story bore 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long, carrying road traffic on the upper deck and rail traffic on the lower deck. Market Street would be extended southwest in a straight line across private property to connect to the eastern portal, to be located at the intersection of 19th and Douglass.[5] Initial estimates for the cost of the tunnel ranged from US$1,500,000 (equivalent to $42,000,000 in 2018) in 1909[3] to US$3,000,000 (equivalent to $81,000,000 in 2018) in 1910.[5]

The Twin Peaks Tunnel and Improvement Convention released their report in August 1910 recommending a municipal bond to pay for the tunnel, whose costs would be recouped by the additional taxation of the land that would then be opened for development. Other options were considered and rejected, including a special assessment district or a long-term railroad lease.[6]

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a competing plan to build a longer tunnel under Twin Peaks in March 1912, continuing under Market to Valencia, which was seen as the foundation for a rapid transit system connecting the downtown Financial District with western San Francisco and the Peninsula.[7] This action was taken on the recommendation of noted tunnel expert Bion J. Arnold, who had submitted two preliminary reports in 1912, following up with a final report in March 1913. The 1913 report studied several alternative alignments and configurations, recommending construction of both the Twin Peaks Tunnel and what would become the Sunset Tunnel.[8]

Twin Peaks Tunnel proposal summary[8]
  No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4 No. 5
3 3A 4 4A 5 5A 5B
Notes AKA Schussler plan Proposed by Twin Peaks Tunnel Association High-level tunnel Includes transfer station near present-day Forest Hill station Combines aspects of Nos. 2 and 4, including transfer station at Forest Hill
East Portal Market & Castro Market & Valencia Market & Castro 19th & Douglass Market & Castro 18th & Eureka Market & Valencia 19th & Douglass 18th & Eureka
Route W on 17th to Stanyan
SSW between hills to Dewey
Straight between portals
West Portal Dewey Blvd Corbett & Dewey Laguna Honda near S end of Alms House tract Taraval & Dewey (near present-day West Portal station)

In the 1913 report, Arnold primarily considered proposals No. 2 and No. 5B, concluding "I can recommend unqualifiedly [sic] the construction of a Twin Peaks Rapid Transit tunnel at the earliest possible date. In so doing, there will be brought within 30 minutes' running time of the business district, approximately 10,000 acres of new territory, 75% of which is suitable for residence land, that has been practically useless heretofore by reason of lack of adequate transportation thereto."[8] One of the key elements of proposal No. 5B was the creation of a new station along the tunnel, which is now present-day Forest Hill station (then called Laguna Honda station, at the intersection of Laguna Honda and Dewey Boulevard).[8][9] The San Francisco Call speculated the presence of a station at Laguna Honda meant the Geary line could be extended through Golden Gate Park.[10] A 1912 report by Arnold proposed that Laguna Honda would be a transfer point enabling passengers to move from Third and Market to Ocean Beach within 25 minutes on an express car, assuming a Seventh Avenue surface line was built.[11]

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Twin Peaks Tunnel locations
East Portal
Proposed East Portal (1910, T.P. Tunnel Assoc.)[5]
Proposed East Portal (1913, Arnold)[8]
West Portal
Forest Hill / Laguna Honda
Eureka Valley

At a proposed 16,000 feet (4,900 m) in length, Arnold's proposed tunnel would not be suitable for road traffic for lack of adequate ventilation. He also believed the straight extension of Market to 19th and Douglass was impractical, as it would require extensive earth moving and exceed 3% maximum grade.[8] It was on this basis the Twin Peaks Association of Improvement voiced their opposition to Arnold's plans in May 1912.[12] City Engineer M.M. O'Shaughnessy recommended terminating the tunnel at 17th and Market in February 1913, as he thought the Market Street Subway may need to be extended past Valencia, potentially to Third.[13] O'Shaughnessy's report endorsing Arnold's plan[14] was unanimously adopted by the Board of Supervisors in October 1913.[15][16] With the addition of 15,000 acres (6,100 ha) of "the best residence property on the peninsula within 15 minutes of the business center of the city", the Call estimated the population of San Francisco would add 100,000 within three years and 200,000 within five.[17]

Carl Larsen, a prominent resident of the rural western side of San Francisco, recommended shortening the tunnel proposed by Arnold by moving the western portal to Laguna Honda station, but O'Shaughnessy stated the resulting grade would be too steep.[9][18] Mayor James Rolph signed the Twin Peaks Tunnel Act in November 1913, rejecting the proposal for a shorter tunnel.[19]

Construction and opening[edit]

Profile of Twin Peaks Tunnel, showing excavation progress as of 1916

The contract for tunnel construction was awarded on November 2, 1914 to the R.C. Storrie Company for US$3,372,000 (equivalent to $84,340,000 in 2018)[1]:5;7 and work began on the Twin Peaks Tunnel in December 1914 with an estimated three-year construction schedule for the twin-track bore.[20] Construction was completed thirty-three months later.[21] Funding for the tunnel came from special assessment districts established at the eastern and western ends; the undeveloped western area, approximately 4,000 acres (1,600 ha), was responsible for 85% of tunnel costs.[1]:5

"Double Tube Flat Top"
"Soft Ground"
Profile sections of Twin Peaks Tunnel. Most of the structure uses the "Soft Ground" arched profile, with the exception of the eastern end of the tunnel, which uses the "Double Tube Flat Top" section.

The eastern approach to the tunnel was built along a parcel purchased by the city approximately 1,800 feet (550 m) long and 90 feet (27 m) wide at the end of Market. This right-of-way was also later paved to connect Market with Portola.[1]:5 As originally constructed, the total length of the tunnel is 11,675 feet (3,559 m) (including approaches) and the highest point of the tunnel is near Laguna Honda station. Sloping down from the peak at Laguna Honda, the tunnel has a maximum grade of 3% from west to east and 1.15% from east to west.[1]:5 Excluding approaches, the tunnel is 8,800 feet (2,700 m) long.[22]

The eastern 1,665-foot (507 m) portion (with the exception of the 300-foot (91 m) long Eureka Valley station) of the tunnel uses a double-tube subway structure, and the remainder adopts an arched tube profile.[1]:5–6 As designed, both sections provide 15 feet (4.6 m) of vertical clearance above the top of the rail; each tube in the double-tube section is 14 feet (4.3 m) wide, and the arched tube is 25 feet (7.6 m) wide at its maximum.[1]:6 The lunette space between the arched roof and flat ceiling of the tube was used as a duct to convey fresh air into the tunnel. One blower was mounted at the west end of the double-tube structure, and the other was at a ventilating shaft 110 feet (34 m) deep, located 4,600 feet (1,400 m) east of the western portal. Excavation of the ventilating shaft required pumping 300,000 US gallons (1,100,000 l) of water per day after a horizontal drift at the bottom of the shaft struck water-bearing sand.[1]:7

Laguna Honda, West Portal, and Eureka Valley stations were constructed using cut-and-cover methods. Laguna Honda station is approximately 70 feet (21 m) below grade.[1]:7 The tunnel was excavated simultaneously from the open cuts at each end; initial excavation sank three drifts (one at each side along the springline, and one at the crown of the tunnel). A fourth drift was added at the centerline bottom of the tunnel to facilitate drainage of the ground at the western end.[1]:7–8 The two crews first "holed through" and connected their excavations near Laguna Honda station on April 5, 1917, 6,100 feet (1,900 m) from the east portal and 5,900 feet (1,800 m) from the west.[21]

Several notable accidents occurred during the construction of the tunnel:

  • A cave-in at the west portal trapped several men in April 1915, killing one[23][24]
  • A fire broke out in November 1915[25]
  • Four were killed and several injured while investigating a blasting charge that did not go off when planned in February 1917[26]
  • A woman's house was nearly blown off its foundation by a blasting charge.[27]

Dedication ceremonies were held at each portal on July 14, 1917. Mayor Rolph and several other dignitaries, including former Mayor P. H. McCarthy spoke at the east portal, beginning at 2:00 p.m.; after the remarks, hundreds of people walked through the tunnel to the west portal, and Judge E. P. Shortall was the first of the pedestrians to arrive. At the west portal, Mayor Rolph spoke again and a ceremonial silver spike was driven by O'Shaughnessy and Rolph to mark the start of construction of the Twin Peaks Railway.[28] The inaugural trip through the tunnel occurred on December 31, 1917.[29] The tunnel was opened to revenue service on February 3, 1918,[2] and was the world's longest tunnel for street railway traffic at the time.[30][31] Mayor Rolph served as the motorman for the first revenue trip, and most of the paying passengers were City Supervisors, wives, and invited guests. The trip through the tunnel took seven minutes.[22]

Route of Twin Peaks Tunnel, 1916

Incorporation into Muni Metro[edit]

West Portal station, the western tunnel entrance, in 1916 (during construction), 1967 (before the conversion to light rail), and present-day (2017)

The tunnel was built sloping downwards at the east end, anticipating future expansion to a tunnel under Market Street per Arnold's plan.[11][32] A technical report was commissioned by the city in 1960 to study possible rapid transit routes. This recommended that the initial line linking BART from a transbay tunnel to Daly City be routed through Twin Peaks Tunnel.[33] BART's 1961 plan did not include the tunnel connection on Market Street.[34]

When the Market Street Subway was built in the late 1970s, it was connected to the Twin Peaks Tunnel to be used by the K Ingleside, L Taraval and M Ocean View lines. These services were spared from conversion to trolleybus by virtue of their use of Twin Peaks Tunnel. The Eureka Valley station was closed and was functionally replaced by Castro Street Station. This combined subway line was the impetus for transitioning the system to light rail and served as the basis of Muni Metro.

The original eastern entrance to the tunnel in the middle of Market Street at Castro was removed and new entrances were placed on the sides of the street further up the block, though no Metro or streetcar lines use them in regular service (they were used during construction of the Market Street subway and are occasionally used in non-revenue service such as rerouting trains around construction projects). Instead, trains continue directly from the Market Street Subway into the tunnel without going above ground.

Forest Hill and Eureka Valley stations were originally constructed with low platforms, as streetcars of that era had steps to load passengers from street level. However, the six new Market Street Subway stations were built with high-level platforms for speedier level boarding onto the new Boeing LRVs. West Portal station, which was originally a surface stop outside of the tunnel's western entrance, was rebuilt as a high-platform station located just inside of the entrance. With Eureka Valley station permanently closed, Forest Hill was left as the only low-platform station on the Muni Metro subway. Muni soon modified the station with high-level platforms, completing that project in 1985.[35]

Rail replacement project[edit]

Shuttle buses during the tunnel closure

Around 2014, with the tunnel nearing a century of continuous use, Muni began planning a major track replacement project in the tunnel, which would be the first since 1975.[36] The project includes the replacement of all rails and ties in the tunnel with new rails directly fixed to concrete pads, the installation of two pairs of crossovers (one near West Portal, the other just east of Forest Hill), replacement of existing switches to the unused eastern portals, a structural refit of the former Eureka Valley area, replacement of the overhead wires, and a number of other repairs and improvements.[37] The work will lift an existing 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) speed limit through the tunnel. Noise reduction techniques from a similar project on the Sunset Tunnel in 2016 will be used.[38]

The construction contract was awarded on April 5, 2016.[36] The project was originally planned to begin in late 2016, but has suffered a series of delays. It was delayed from April 2017 to mid-2017 (with a completion date of mid-2018) in March 2017 to allow for "additional technical analysis" of the tunnel.[39] In June 2017, the project was indefinitely delayed after the construction contract was terminated.[40] Muni and the contractor could not agree on a new schedule and costs to minimize disruptions to riders; the project duration increased from 460 days to 807 days and the cost to $48 million, and Muni staff recommended the contract be terminated.[41] The SFMTA released a Request for Qualifications in October 2017, and bidding opened for the $35.5 million project in November.[42][43]

The closure began on June 25, 2018, and lasted until August 24.[44] During the closure, Muni Metro was short turned at Castro station; the surface section of the K Ingleside was through-routed with the J Church, while the L Taraval and M Ocean View were replaced by buses.[45]

Systemwide delays during the summer of 2018 resulted from a combination of the tunnel shutdown and decreased qualified driver availability, which in turn was attributed to the rollout of LRV4s (requiring driver training), and contract issues.[46] Refurbishment work was temporarily suspended after a signal technician was fatally crushed by a steel beam on August 10.[47][48] The technician was an employee of Shimmick Construction, the firm contracted to handle the refurbishment; Shimmick had been cited for serious and willful safety violations on an unrelated job in 2011 by Cal/OSHA but neglected to disclose those violations during the bidding for the Twin Peaks Tunnel job.[49] Muni was also criticized for inadequate notice of service degradation to bus lines during the closure, since buses were pulled off regular routes to substitute for trains,[50] and for the death during the project.[51]

The completion of the project allowed for the permanent use of two-car trains on the K/T lines.[52]


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  2. ^ a b c Wallace, Kevin (March 27, 1949). "San Francisco History - City's Tunnels". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 14, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Mayor's tactful speech blasts Redding's hopes". San Francisco Call. 28 May 1909. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Twin Peaks' Tunnel Convention's Work". San Francisco Call. 6 August 1910. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "Plans being made for building of big tube". San Francisco Call. 9 July 1910. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Convention solves engineering problem". San Francisco Call. 20 August 1910. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Building of Twin Peaks Tunnel assured by action of Supervisors". San Francisco Call. 23 March 1912. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
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  9. ^ a b "Shorter Twin Peaks Tunnel Investigated". San Francisco Call. 6 November 1913. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  10. ^ "Geary Car Line may be extended". San Francisco Call. 27 July 1912. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Subway Express Under Twin Peaks for 25 Minute Dash to Beach: Arnold Devises Clever Project to Solve 1915 Traffic Problem". San Francisco Call. 8 October 1912. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  12. ^ "Arnold's Twin Peaks Tunnel plan opposed". San Francisco Call. 8 May 1912. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  13. ^ "Twin Peaks Tunnel to start on 17th Street". San Francisco Call. 25 February 1913. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  14. ^ O'Shaughnessy, M.M. (July 1913). Specifications for the construction of a tunnel and appurtenances under Twin Peaks (Report). Department of Public Works, City and County of San Francisco, California. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  15. ^ "Twin Peaks $4,000,000 Tunnel means a great forward step for city". San Francisco Call. 25 October 1913. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  16. ^ "City in Position To Proceed With Twin Peaks Tunnel". San Francisco Call. 22 October 1913. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Population to be increased by tunnel". San Francisco Call. 27 September 1913. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Twin Peaks Tunnel, Says City Engineer, Can Not Be Reduced". San Francisco Call. 20 September 1913. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Mayor Signs Twin Peaks Tunnel Act". San Francisco Call. 7 November 1913. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  20. ^ "Frisco tunnel has begun". Riverside Daily Press. 29 December 1914. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  21. ^ a b "Log of a Motor Truck Tells Story of Great Performance on Long, Hard Drive". Sacramento Union. 1 September 1918. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  22. ^ a b "New Car Speeds Through Picturesque Tunnel With the Mayor and President of Board of Public Works as Crew". Sausalito News. 9 February 1918. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  23. ^ "8 Men Buried in Tunnel Collapse". Los Angeles Herald. Pacific News Service. 10 April 1915. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  24. ^ "One Killed, a Dozen Injured When Street Tunnel Caves In". San Bernardino Sun. 11 April 1915. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  25. ^ "Twin Peaks Tunnel fire". Riverside Daily Press. 29 November 1915. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  26. ^ "Delayed blast kills four". Riverside Daily Press. 16 February 1917. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  27. ^ "Damage settlement was surely easy". Riverside Daily Press. 28 February 1917. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  28. ^ "Crowd applauds mayor as he declares two-mile bore open". Mariposa Gazette. 21 July 1917. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  29. ^ "First Car Through Twin Peaks Tunnel". Electric Railway Journal. 51: 151. 19 January 1918. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  30. ^ "Twin Peaks tunnel opens". San Francisco Chronicle. February 4, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  31. ^ "Cars run through Twin Peaks". Sausalito News. 2 February 1918. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
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  33. ^ De Leuw, Cather & Company (19 May 1960). "A Plan for Rapid Transit in San Francisco Consonant with the Bay Area Rapid Transit System". The Transportation Technical Committee of the Mayor's Transportation Council, City of San Francisco. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  34. ^ "Rapid Transit for the San Francisco Bay Area" (PDF). LA Metro Library. Parsons Brinkerhoff / Tudor / Bechtel. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  35. ^ "Chapter 1". Muni Metro Turnaround Project: Final Enivironmental Impact Statement. United States Department of Transportation Urban Mass Transportation Administration. August 1989. p. 1-2 – via Internet Archive.
  36. ^ a b "Twin Peaks Tunnel Contract Awarded" (Press release). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. April 28, 2016.
  37. ^ San Francisco Planning Department (February 13, 2015). "CEQA Categorical Exemption Determination" (PDF). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. pp. 5–6.
  38. ^ "Twin Peaks Tunnel Improvements". San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  39. ^ "Twin Peaks Tunnel Construction Held Until Summer" (Press release). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. March 16, 2017.
  40. ^ "Twin Peaks Tunnel Construction Delayed" (Press release). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. June 6, 2017.
  41. ^ Chinn, Jerold (January 16, 2018). "Years of delay haunt Muni tunnel projects". SFBay.
  42. ^ "Bid Document". City and County of San Francisco. October 17, 2017.
  43. ^ "Bid Document". City and County of San Francisco. November 2017.
  44. ^ Hernández, Lauren (August 25, 2018). "Muni's Twin Peaks Tunnel reopens to the relief of frustrated passengers". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  45. ^ "Twin Peaks Tunnel Improvements". San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. June 25, 2018. Archived from the original on June 26, 2018.
  46. ^ Rodriguez, Joe Fitzgerald (July 26, 2018). "Muni suffering major citywide service gaps due to operator shortage". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  47. ^ Barba, Michael (August 12, 2018). "Twin Peaks Tunnel construction resumes after accidental death of worker". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  48. ^ Barba, Michael (August 13, 2018). "Technician killed by beam in Twin Peaks Tunnel was working with stepson". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  49. ^ Barba, Michael (August 21, 2018). "SFMTA head defends choice of contractor in Twin Peaks tunnel death". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  50. ^ Eskenazi, Joe (August 6, 2018). "Muni meltdown 2018: Our transit service failed to plan — and, thereby, planned to fail". Mission Local. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  51. ^ Swan, Rachel (August 20, 2018). "SF mayor Breed blasts Muni chief over delays, background checks and scooter permitting". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  52. ^ von Krogh, Bonnie Jean (August 24, 2018). "Two-Car Trains Now Permanent on K/T Line" (Press release). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

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