Construction at the downtown Berkeley BART plaza on July 31. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Update, Sept. 13: BART had hoped the work on the plaza would be completed by today, but it has not been. Now the target date for a grand opening is mid-October, according to BART spokesman James Allison.

Original story, Aug. 1: The contractor redoing BART plaza in downtown Berkeley has told the transit agency that construction has been delayed once again, and the downtown plaza won’t be finished until the end of September, over a year after its original slated completion date.

In May, Berkeleyside reported that the plaza completion date had been delayed to August.

But BART officials are pushing back and have informed USS Cal Builders that the company must finish the job by mid-September, according to James K. Allison, a BART spokesman.

“They’re saying late September. We’re saying make it September 13,” said Allison.

The delay is due to “personnel churn,” he said. The “leadership [on the project] has been in flux.”

USS Cal Builders, a company based in Stanton, CA, has been paying $3,545 in daily liquidated damages since around December 2017 for not completing the project on time, according to records BART released to Berkeleyside after a public records request.

When USS Cal Builders signed a $7.6 million contract to redo the plaza in July 2016, BART required that the work be completed in 450 days. Rain delays and change orders added another 58 days to that, according to BART documents. The builder then forecast that the work would be finished around September 2017.

The new completion day of September 2018 means the job will be a year late and the construction company will have to pay around $1.3 million in damages, according to Berkeleyside calculations. (BART wouldn’t release how much it believes the company must pay as settlements and disputes are assessed after a project is finished.) The company set aside funds for this contingency and has a performance bond from Arch Insurance, according to BART documents.

Workers place pavers as part of the BART plaza improvement project on July 31. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Construction is continuing on the BART plaza project. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

This is the third official delay for the project. In July 2017, BART acknowledged that the renovation project was six months behind schedule because there had been 50 rain days in the winter of 2016-2017. At that time, BART said the new plaza would be done by early 2018.

In May, Berkeleyside reported that the BART plaza project would be delayed once more and would not be finished until mid-August because of personnel issues. A new project manager for USS Cal Builders, Terrence Gilfillian, disputed that assessment. He said he was loading up the crews to fast-track completion and would sometimes have as many as 25 men working at a time.

USS Cal Builders did not return a Berkeleyside call asking for a comment.

Berkeley officials are looking forward to the opening of the plaza but expressed concern about how the construction delays have impacted local businesses. Matthai Chakko, a city spokesman, said the city has no control over the project, which is overseen by BART.

On Tuesday, Amy Corona, a shift manager for Paris Baguette, a pastry store at 2150 Shattuck Ave., said the BART construction had not been too bothersome and the store had not seen a drop in business because of all the work outside. Summertime is always less busy than the school year, she said. A server at Ike’s Place, a sandwich shop at 2172 Shattuck Ave., said all the jackhammering and noise gave her a headache.

The BART plaza at Shattuck Avenue and Center streets serves 30,000 daily transit riders who use BART, AC Transit and the UC Berkeley Bear Transit Shuttle.

The Berkeley Downtown Association is tentatively planning a grand opening celebration for the plaza on Sept. 13, said John Caner, the executive director.

The new plaza will have a more open feel than the old one, as the Center Street Rotunda that sat above the main entrance has been replaced by a glass half-arch.

Avatar photo

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...