Telling a Story Through
Highway and Planning Maps
The History of San Francisco Bay Area
(Part 1—The City of San Francisco)
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/.
|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:
- Central Freeway. US 101 from its present terminus as freeway
near Fell to the Embarcadero. Part of LRN 2. Currently US 101.
- Crosstown Freeway. This freeway would have ran from I-280
near Daly City crosstown to the S edge of Golden Gate Park. Not in the
state highway system by 1963; planned number unknown.
- Embarcadero/Golden Gate Freeway (but not the one you're
thinking off). In this map, there is what was the stub I-480 off the Bay
Bridge, and the US 101 freeway portion to the Golden Gate Bridge. The
map does not show the unconstructed LRN 224, which would have ran along
the Embarcadero as I-480. This would have encompassed part of LRN 2.
Figures 1-3 and 1-4 show the origian planned Embarcadero Freeway better.
- Great Highways Freeway. A freeway running along the Pacific
Coast side of the city, along Great Highway and Geary. This was not part
of the 1955 trafficways plan. Route 35.
- Hunters Point Expressway. Route 230 and Route 87 from S of
Candlestick Park to about where the Southern Crossing would start.
- Mission Freeway. A freeway that looks like it ran down
Mission Street from US 101 in Daly City to the present-day US 101 near
Oak and Fell. This was not part of the state highway system by 1963.
This would probably have been signed as US 101. Chris Sampang (who did
the page on San Francisco Highways) believed that a portion of it (as
San Jose Avenue) existed for about a mile or two north of I-280, with a
couple of interchanges. It is more likely that this stretch is the
remains of San Jose Avenue, which was built as a divided road beside the
original (1860's-1870's) Southern Pacific main line (an article on this
stretch may be found here). Later, the Ocean Shore RR and streetcar lines joined in, and starting in
the early 1900's SP gradually abandoned the line after building the one
Caltrain uses now. The RR(s) originally built the cut; the City later
widened it and built roadways. Pictures from the 1950's and early 1960's
show the overpasses built with a narrow space between pillars in the
center (where the railroad/streetcar tracks were) paved over as a
passing lane, with wider spaces on either side for the main road. In the
1960's or 1970's, the bridges were replaced for seismic and road
reconstruction purposes with the full-width spans seen today. The only
actual interchange is at Glen Park (Diamond St. - Monterey Blvd.) where
it was built as part of the Southern Freeway project (I-280).
- Panhandle Freeway or Western Freeway. This freeway
would have extended the Central Freeway up the Oak/Fell corridor, tunnel
under the N edge of Golden Gate Park before turning onto Park Presidio.
A portion of this remained as LRN 223, and if constructed, would have
been part of a future extension of I-80. The extension (First Street to
Route 280) doesn't appear to have been submitted to AASHTO (or if it
was, it wasn't in Caltrans' history). The map also shows what looks like
parallel freeway on either side of Golden Gate Park. It was shown as
"Deleted, pending further study" in the 1955 Trafficways Plan.
- Park Presidio Freeway. Approximately present-day Route 1 from
the Crosstown or Western Freeways to the approach to the Golden Gate
Bridge. A 1967 Rand McNalley map indicates this would have been I-480,
however Figure 1-4 shows that this would have been I-280. This segment
was never submitted to AASHTO for approval. In 1968, the portion of this
routing (from Route 1 to Route 480 (present-day US 101)) was transferred
formally from Route 280 to Route 1.
- Serra Freeway. Another planned part of I-280, again
approximately along Route 5, from the present point where Route 1 exits
I-280 to the Park Presidio Freeway. 1968, the portion of this routing
(from Route 1 to Route 480 (present-day US 101)) was transferred
formally from Route 280 to Route 1.
- Southern Crossing. This map also shows the proposed Southern Crossing. This
would have been an additional crossing S of the Bay Bridge, terminating
in Oakland (two approaches in Oakland: one along Alameda and one along
Doolittle to the I-880/Hegenberger interchange). The history of the
Southern Crossing goes back at least to 1948, when the state department
of public works prepared a report on additional toll crossings of San
Francisco Bay. This report noted "Because of the increasing congestion
on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the California Toll Bridge
Authority, on Oct 30, 1945, directed the Department of Public Works to
make comprehensive studies for another bay crossing between SF and the
East Bay cites. On Jan 31, 1947, the department recommended construction
of an additional bridge just north of and parallel to the existing
bridge—a plan which is now known as the Parallel Bridge." This
report provided an estimated cost for the Parallel Bridge of $155,014,
000, and an estimate for the Southern Crossing of $178, 421, 000. The
original concept of the Southern Crossing is illustrated to the right.
There's an extensive discussion of the Southern Crossing and the
Parallel Crossing in the November-December 1947 issue of California Highways and Public Works.
There were later Southern Crossing proposals, for example, one in
1996 proposed extending Route 238 to Daly City. One author indicates
this as I-980; the only record I have is of a rejected proposal for a
Southern Crossing and approaches (25mi), with no number stated. The
University of California, Berkeley, has an online library exhibit that
contains a lot of information about this unbuilt crossing; you can
find it at http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/news_events/bridge/. This would have come approximately from the Route 82/Route 87 junction
It is possible that Route 87 may have been the Southern Crossing.
Note that the Southern Crossing isn't dead yet. In July 2001, the
California Transportion Commission was funding a study regarding to
the feasibility of a Southern Crossing. However, this later version
would have run from I-380 at the top of the San Francisco
International Airport to the bottom of the Oakland Airport, for a much
longer crossing. See I-380 for more details.
- Southern Freeway. What is now I-280; originally, this would
have been Route 82, with a portion east of the Bayshore Freeway being
part of Route 87 (that portion was reassigned to I-280 in 1968)
(Click on the image for a full-size map. Full-size
image size: 141K)
|Figure 1-3. Excerpt from the 1963
State Highway Map showing San Francisco
(Click on the image for a full-size map. Full-size
image size: 186K)
|Figure 1-4. Plans for the San
Franciso Bay Area's Freeways
|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
- LRN 223: The Western or Panhandle Freeway. Figure 1-4 shows that this
was to have been an extension of I-80. This is illustrated quite well on
this page by Chris Sampang, an excerpt from which is shown to the right..
- LRN 225: The Serra Freeway. This was a routing from US 101 to
CA 1. Had this been constructed, it would have been part of I-280, and
what is now known as I-280 would have been Route 82. Note that portions
of this have been constructed: The Southern Freeway is LRN 2 only as far
south as what is now the Route 82/NB Route 1 exit. I-280 between that
point and where it joins SB Route 1 is LRN 225.
- LRN 224: The Embarcadero Freeway. Figure 1-4 makes it clear
this was to have been Route 480.
- LRN 253: The Hunter's Point Freeway. Route 87 (with a little
bit of Route 230) freeway, which would have provided an east bypass on
the west side of San Francisco Bay, and a connection to the Southern
- Southern Crossing Figure 1-5 also shows a proposed Southern
Crossing. This has been an off-again, on-again proposal for an
additional bridge in the San Francisco Bay. Dead for a long time, it is
being reconsidered by the California Transportation Commission, as
demonstrated on the CTC's September 2000 Agenda, which contains a
Traffic Congestion Relief Proposal (#11) , requesting a $3.2 million
dollar allocation (out of a total estimate of $5 million) for a study of
a new San Francisco Bay crossing (i.e., new bridge, HOV/Transit Bridge,
or second BART tube) in Alameda and San Francisco or San Mateo Counties.
Supposedly, the study is looking into connecting this to Route 238 and
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:
- LRN 253. Part of present-day I-280 in downtown San Francisco.
This was originally Route 82. The other parts of LRN 253 have been
- LRN 239. Part of present-day I-280 W of US 101.
Why didn't some routes make it. First, freeways were never popular in the
San Francisco Bay area. Some examples:
- Embarcadero Freeway. This was part of the 1951 Trafficways
plan, and a short section opened in 1959. It was the subject of immense
protest. During its construction in 1958, a large opposition formed;
over 30,000 people signed petitions at meetings protesting the freeway.
In 1959, the Board of Supervisors voted to cancel 7 of 10 planned
freeway routes through the city.
This route would have been an extension of Route 480 up through
Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39/Ghiradelli Square, through Aquatic Park,
through Ft. Mason and down the Marina Green to connect with the Golden
Gate Bridge. Thus, it would have connected I-80 with the Golden Gate
Bridge, following Lombard and US 101. It was withdrawn from the
Interstate system in 1965, rejected in 1966. In 1968, the San
Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to stop building the freeway. By
1973, the city was already talking about tearing it down. In 1985, the
board voted to tear down the remaining freeway, but no action was
taken. The road was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and it
was quickly demolished thereafter.
- Junipero Serra (Crosstown Freeway) and Park Presidio
Freeways. According to a 1951 Trafficways plan, these would have
approximated the current Route 1 (but as freeway), paralleling 19th
Avenue to the East. The freeway construction was stopped by the 1959
freeway revolt. Part of the Serra Freeway was constructed; it is signed
as Route 1.
- Panhandle Freeway. The Panhandle Freeway was to be a double
deck extension of the Central Freeway, placed between Oak and Fell
Streets with the attendant loss of many blocks of housing and the DMV
office. Where it met the Golden Gate Park Panhandle, it was to be
partially below ground level in a trench, still double-decked, cut
through the NE corner of Golden Gate Park. It would have continued in a
trench on Park Presidio Boulevard to ultimately connect with the Golden
Gate Bridge; double-decked the whole way. The revolt that killed this
freeway is well documented here. Even considering the 1959 vote, various routes continued to be
resurrected. In 1964, the Panhandle-Golden Gate Freeway plan reached its
peak. There was a ralley at the Polo Grounds to save the park. Months
later, the Board of Supervisors rejected the freeway in a 6-5 vote. The
Supervisors' Transportation Committee had received a petition with
15,000 signatures, 20,000 letters and telegrams, and had received
opposition from 77 community organizations.
- Western Freeway. This one was to extend east from where the
I-280 turns to parallel Alemany Blvd. It was again to be a double-decker
in a trench. It was to follow Junipero Serra Blvd. and enter the Sunset
district at about 17th Ave. It was then to extend to Golden Gate Park,
bisect the park and continue on Park Presidio Blvd, double-decked in a
trench the whole way. This would have removed at least 12 city blocks of
row housing, a new junior high school, two churches and their associated
grammar schools, and a lot of expensive homes on the edge of St. Francis
Woods, Forest Hills and Stearn Grove.
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.
(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.
The following maps scanned in by others also provide information on San
The following sites give good information on the development of San
Southern California Freeway Renumbering San Francisco Freeway Development
- The Bay Area
© 1996-2020 Daniel P.
Maintained by: Daniel P. Faigin <firstname.lastname@example.org>.