Muni’s subway service extension between Chinatown and Mission Bay in San Francisco finally has an opening date after years of delays, with a soft opening planned for mid-November before full service opens next year.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency first broke ground on the Central Subway in 2010 and received nearly $1 billion in federal funding to complete the project, with an original opening date scheduled for late 2018.

However, a series of delays including a fire earlier this year at one of the subway’s stations as well as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed that timeline back roughly four years.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg makes remarks at a news conference in San Francisco’s Chinatown on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, held to celebrate progress of the nearly completed extension of the T-Third Muni Metro line. (Photo by Olivia Wynkoop/Bay City News)

SFMTA Transportation Director Jeffrey Tumlin told the agency’s Board of Directors Tuesday that he had been waiting years to give the official opening date for public service: Nov. 19.

“As San Francisco continues to grow, the T-Third from (Visitacion Valley) to Chinatown will be the highest ridership light rail line in the city,” Tumlin said.

Muni will initially run a free, weekends-only rail shuttle through the Central Subway between the Fourth and Brannon streets and Chinatown-Rose Pak stations, according to Tumlin.

The soft opening will help the agency ensure that staff are fully trained for daily operations of the subway.

Tumlin said Muni plans to open the Central Subway to full service in January to coincide with the Chinese Lunar New Year.

The Central Subway will run perpendicular to Muni’s existing main subway line that is aligned with BART’s downtown stations and will modify the current route of the T-Third Street Muni line.

The T line currently turns right at the intersection of Second and King streets and continues along King Street and the Embarcadero.

Once the Central Subway is open, the T line will continue straight through Second and King streets and stop at a surface station at Fourth and Brannon streets before venturing underground.

The subway includes stops at the Moscone Center and Union Square before terminating in Chinatown at the intersection of Stockton and Washington streets.

The Union Square station will also have a connecting escalator to the Powell Street Muni and BART stations.

The Central Subway Project will improve public transportation in San Francisco by extending the Muni Metro T Third Line through SoMa, Union Square and Chinatown. (Photo courtesy of SFMTA)

“This line saves at least 15 minutes off the travel time from Bayview into Chinatown,” Tumlin said Tuesday. “This new line ensures that Chinatown will remain the cultural and economic heart of Chinese-speaking San Francisco and serves a whole array of communities.”