If you had to guess, what would you think took longer to build: San Francisco’s stunning AT&T Park (still PacBell Park to some of us) or one single new stoplight?

Unless you’re familiar with the inner workings of San Francisco’s seemingly labyrinthine bureaucracy, you probably guessed wrong.

Safer Streets Take Almost Three Years

According to the SF Examiner, installing a stoplight – something you may perceive to be relatively simple (and somewhat important, we think) – takes longer to do than it took to build AT&T Park (formerly SBC Park, formerly PacBell Park).

Construction at 24 Willie Mays Plaza began in December 1997 and came to fruition in April 2000 – revitalizing the China Basin area and bringing new meaning to the term “3rd and King” for scores of Giants fans. All this was done in roughly 28 months.

What takes so long?

But, according to SFMTA, the complex process of putting a pole in the ground with some light bulbs attached necessitates more time than it took to build a stadium regarded around Major League Baseball as one of the best. That’s because it takes 4 months to “identify and secure” the money needed to build the light ($187,500 minimum – for those of you keeping score), a whopping 17 months to get a design done, 4 more months to bid the contract and 10 months to build and flip the switch on the new light.

SFMTA says all this time is necessary – but we’re pretty sure there has to be a better way. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to have SFMTA’s new $100,000 public relations firm explain why this simple and necessary process is anything but. We’ve called SFMTA to find out exactly what this PR firm is doing for $100,000 but have yet to hear back. We’ll let you know when we do.

We’ll also try to find out how long it took to hire the new PR firm. Somehow, we suspect it was under three years.

Until then, let us know if you find any areas in The City that need new stoplights. We’ll start a countdown to see how long it takes to get the job done.