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San Francisco has completed the first phase of the Geary Rapid Project, a series of safety and transit improvements along Geary Boulevard and involving several neighborhoods, including the Western Addition, Japantown, and the Tenderloin.

The $13 million project broke ground back in 2019, bringing numerous upgrades to a three-mile stretch of Geary Boulevard between Market and Stanyan streets — described by pedestrian advocates as one the city’s most dangerous corridors.

Among the improvements, a new signal and crosswalk at the Geary Boulevard and Buchanan Street intersection to better connect two neighborhoods; the Fillmore and Japantown, which became physically divided by the Geary Expressway and urban renewal redevelopment projects from past decades.

“This project was designed, in its small way, to help restore the connectivity between Japantown and the Fillmore,” said SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin during a ceremony in Japantown on Wednesday marking progress on the Geary Rapid Transit Project. (Photo by Daniel Montes/Bay City News)

According to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director Jeffrey Tumlin, the new, safer connection can be the “start of healing” for both historic communities.

“The Geary Expressway was intentionally designed to exclude, to separate these neighborhoods from one another,” he said. “This project was designed, in its small way, to help restore the connectivity between Japantown and the Fillmore.”

“We were community. We were responsible for one another. … (W)hat we’re trying to do in correcting the mistakes of the past is build those bridges and make them stronger, both with the people and the infrastructure.”

Mayor London Breed

“Before Geary Boulevard, this was a community of mostly African Americans and Japanese Americans who lived together in harmony,” Mayor London Breed said. “We were community. We were responsible for one another. We looked out and took care of one another and we built bridges and had incredible relationships and when this became, in essence, a freeway, there was a real divide. So, what we’re trying to do in correcting the mistakes of the past is build those bridges and make them stronger, both with the people and the infrastructure.”

Other improvements include new pedestrian signals, curb ramps, countdown signals, longer crosswalk times, and a reduction from four lanes to just two general lanes and one transit-only lane in each direction.

New street-level crosswalks at the intersection of Geary Boulevard and Steiner Street replace a dated pedestrian bridge that Geary Rapid Project planners say was intentionally designed to separate the Japantown and Tenderloin neighborhoods. (Photo courtesy of SFMTA)

In addition, there are 34 new pedestrian bulb-out sidewalk extensions at corners, many of which are in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood — a part of the corridor which sees a disproportionate amount of traffic collisions, city officials said.

Also, 12 new transit bulb-out-sidewalk extensions for buses at bus stops have been added, reducing delays by allowing buses to stay in the lanes.

“These are communities that need more transit, that need better transit and this is a great step forward,” Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said. “The 38-Geary is just one example of what we need to do. We need faster bus service. We need bus rapid transit.”

Construction crews removed the old pedestrian bridge at Geary Boulevard and Steiner Street over Memorial Day weekend in 2020. (Video courtesy of SFMTA/YouTube)

According to city officials, the 38-Geary and 38-Geary Rapid bus lines are typically the routes with the most ridership.

The Geary Rapid Project’s second phase will consist of similar safety and transit improvements along Geary Boulevard, from Stanyan Street to 34th Avenue. Transportation officials are currently in the design and outreach part of the second phase, city officials said.

Weekly project updates are available on the SFMTA website.