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Cracked beam shuts down San Francisco transit hub, snarles traffic

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By Nicholas Sakelaris, UPI

San Francisco commuters faced gridlock on the roads, jam-packed parking garages, detours and a shuttered bus terminal Wednesday morning -- all because workers found a crack in a steel beam.

Workers discovered the crack Tuesday at the $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center, prompting concerns about the bus station's stability, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The station and nearby roads were closed immediately and remained closed Wednesday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission will do a full investigation of the crack.

The beam is on the third floor of the bus station and supports the park above the bus deck with six feet of soil above it. Now, all the steel beams in the center will be inspected. The steel was fabricated by Skanska USA of New York.

Finding a crack in the bus deck isn't normal.

"A structural beam should never crack," Joe Maffei, Maffei Structural Engineering in San Francisco. told the Chronicle. "Any kind of a crack in a structural beam has potential implications. You need to always be careful about cracks because they can grow. And their failure can be sudden."

The crack could be caused by a defect in the manufacturing or it could mean the beam is supporting more weight than it's designed to bear.

All 27 Transbay bus routes have been moved to the Temporary Transbay Terminal, which was used while the permanent station was under construction. Compounding the traffic problems, Salesforce is hosting the Dreamforce tech conference, which is expected to draw 170,000 people to San Francisco.

Workers also discovered a cracked window in the nearby Millennium Tower, which has sunk 18 inches since it opened in 2009. The sinking tower and the cracks in the steel beam are not related, said Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the Transbay Joint Power Authority.

The transit center was renamed the Salesforce Transit Center after the tech giant bought the naming rights.

"While this appears to be a localized issue and we have no information that suggests it is widespread, it is our duty to confirm this before we allow public access to the facility," Zabaneh said in an NBC Bay Area report.

The Transbay Transit Center was envisioned as a "Grand Central Station of the West" that would accommodate buses, trains and, eventually, high-speed rail. The building was $800 million over budget and required a $260 million bailout from the city.

Bay Area Rapid Transit's trains are "maxed out" from the Dreamforce conference, a BART spokesperson said.

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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: Cracked beam shuts down San Francisco transit hub, snarles traffic
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