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The History of San Francisco Bay Area Freeway Development
(Part 1—The City of San Francisco)

 
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This presentation is divided into two parts. The first (this page) explores the development of routes in city of San Francisco. Page 2 looks at the larger San Francisco Bay area.

As with Southern California, the initial plans for freeways in the San Francisco Bay area and vicinity was quite ambituous. However, unlike Southern California, San Francisco was home to the Freeway Revolt that protested most of the routes in "the city" (i.e., San Francisco proper). This page describes what was planned, and what resulted. A good reference is this series of images and maps of proposed San Francisco freeways and bridges. There's also another map at http://wilshirevermont.com/2011/04/20/caltrans-freeway-plans-for-the-bay-area/.

[1947 SF Freeway Plan] [1955 Trafficways Plan]
Figure 1-1. 1948 San Francisco Planning Department Freeway Plan
(Source: Chris Carllson via Shaping San Francisco)
Figure 1-2. 1955 Trafficways Plan
(Click on the image for a full-size map. Full-size image size: 309K)

Figure 1-1 shows a 1948 San Francisco Planning Department map for San Francisco. This probably came from the De Leuw, Cather and Co. plan for San Francisco. It recommends a system of freeways, expressways, and parkways in that city. This plan was reconceptualized in 1951 and 1955 as the Trafficways Plan, parts of which were eventually built (see Figure 1-2; route shields added to original map). Some of these routes were never in the State Highway Systems, and were only in the planner's imagination. They do not appear on the 1949-1957 Division of Highways maps [Note: some of these might correspond to Legislative Route Numbers that were deleted by 1963; if anyone can confirm this by providing me with the route numbers, I'd welcome the information.]

This map shows many routes that never made it into the post 1964 state highway system. Why? The answer is something called the Freeway Revolt. On January 27, 1959, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 45-59. This resolution indicated opposition to certain freeway routes. The routes opposed included the unconstructed portion of the Embarcadero/Golden Gate Freeway (Route 480) (from The Embarcadero to the Golden Gate Bridge), the entire Serra and Park Presidio Freeways (proposed I-280), the entire Western Freeway (extension of I-80), the Central Freeway (from Turk Street to the Golden Gate Freeway [Route 480]), the enter Crosstown Freeway, and the Mission Freeway (from 13th Street to the connection with the Southern Freeway). They didn't object to the Hunters Point Expressway (the Route 87 and Route 230 routings S of the Southern Crossing connector), the Southern Freeway (Orizaba Ave. to the City Line), or the Embarcadero Fwy (constructed portion). This opposition doomed most of the planned freeway in San Francisco, and left a general taste of freeway opposition in everyone's mouths.

These maps show the following freeways and items of interest:

[Thumbnail of 1963 SF State Highway Map]
(Click on the image for a full-size map. Full-size image size: 141K)
[Thumbnail of 1965 San Francisco Plans]
(Click on the image for a full-size map. Full-size image size: 186K)
Figure 1-3. Excerpt from the 1963 State Highway Map showing San Francisco Figure 1-4. Plans for the San Franciso Bay Area's Freeways
 
[Kurumi's San Francisco Plan]
Figure 1-5. Kurumi's Conclusions about Planned San Francisco Bay Highways
[Reproduced with permission of the author, Kurumi. See http://www.kurumi.com/roads/3di/sanfran.html for details about this picture]

Figure 1-3 shows the 1963 plans for the San Francisco Bay Area. Figure 1-4 is from a planning map for the Central Freeway; it shows the proposed route numbers much cleaner. Figure 1-5 shows a clean summary of the planned freeways for the area. Note that by 1963, some of the routes in the earlier proposals had already been deleted. Note: To understand these figures, note that 1963 Route 5 is present-day Route 35.

On this route are many freeways that were planned but never made it. For example:

[1967 Map of Routes 82, 87, 280]The routings of Route 82, Route 87, future I-280, and the "Southern Crossing" are particularly interesting. Chris Sampang has a good analysis of these routes; the excerpt to the right (from his pages) illustrates it well.

Other routes made it and were constructed:

Why didn't some routes make it. First, freeways were never popular in the San Francisco Bay area. Some examples:

Something closer to the present-day routings are better illustrated in this excerpt from the 1986 state highway map (Figure 1-6). Note the routes shown in open-circles, which designate routes that were never adopted. The open-dashed-lines are routes that were still planned for construction.

[Thumbnail: 1986 San Francisco Bay]
(Click on image for the full size map. Full-size image size: 103 K.)
Figure 1-6. Excerpt from 1986 State Highway Map showing San Francisco Bay

Note that since 1986, some routes have changed even further. In particular, Route 480 in downtown San Francisco is gone, and I-880 has had significant rerouting in Oakland.

Resources

The following maps scanned in by others also provide information on San Francisco Highways:

The following sites give good information on the development of San Francisco's Freeways:

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© Daniel P. Faigin.
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