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California State Route 480: Wikis


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State Route 480 shield
State Route 480
Embarcadero Freeway; Golden Gate Freeway (unbuilt Western section)
West end: US 101 in San Francisco
East end: I-80 in San Francisco
State highways in California (list - pre-1964)
History - Unconstructed - Deleted - Freeway - Scenic

State Route 480 was a state highway in San Francisco, California, United States, consisting of the elevated double-decker Embarcadero Freeway (also known as the Embarcadero Skyway), the partly-elevated Doyle Drive approach to the Golden Gate Bridge and the proposed and unbuilt section in between. The unbuilt section from Doyle Drive (including an upgraded Doyle Drive itself) to Van Ness Ave. was to have been called the Golden Gate Freeway and the Embarcadero Freeway as originally planned would have extended from Van Ness Ave. along the north side of Bay Street and then along the Embarcadero to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The Embarcadero Freeway, which had only been actually constructed from Broadway along the Embarcadero to the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, was demolished after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and Doyle Drive is now part of U.S. Route 101. SR 480 was Interstate 480, an auxiliary route of the Interstate Highway System, from 1955 to 1965.[1][2]



I-480 (CA).svg
1955 map of the planned Interstates in the San Francisco Bay Area. I-480 would have run along the north side of the city, while I-280 would run south along the peninsula. I-80 was to have run past the east end of I-480 to end at I-280.

Legislative Route 224 was defined in 1947 to connect U.S. Route 101 (pre-1964 Legislative Route 2) at the intersection of Lombard Street and Van Ness Avenue with U.S. Route 40 and U.S. Route 50 (pre-1964 Legislative Route 68) at the west end of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge (near the Transbay Terminal).[3] Its alignment was roughly along Lombard Street and the Embarcadero.[4]

Legislative Route 224, as well as Route 2 (US 101) from Route 224 west to the junction with State Route 1 near the Golden Gate Bridge, was added to the Interstate Highway System on September 15, 1955. This included the 1936 Doyle Drive, an early freeway built to access the Golden Gate Bridge.[5] After some discussion, the number Interstate 480 was assigned on November 10, 1958. (Interstate 280, as originally planned, ran south from the west end of I-480 along SR 1, through the MacArthur Tunnel and Golden Gate Park, to join its present alignment in Daly City.)[6]

In the original 1955 plan, it was planned to extend the Central Freeway as a double decked structure between Van Ness Ave. and Polk Street all the way north to Clay Street, then as a single deck depressed freeway north to Broadway, where it would have tunneled under Russian Hill to connect with Interstate 480.

The first section of the Embarcadero Freeway, from the Bay Bridge approach (Interstate 80) north to Broadway, opened in 1959.[7] As a consequence of the freeway revolt, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 45-59 in January 1959, opposing certain freeways including the remainder of I-480.[8] However, the freeway revolt continued, after a new freeway plan was proposed in 1964, with a massive protest on 17 May 1964--200,000 people rallied in Golden Gate Park against any more new freeways. Poet Kenneth Rexroth spoke at the rally (among others) and folk singer Malvina Reynolds sang (she was most famous for her song "Little Boxes" attacking urban sprawl, which she sang at the anti-freeway rally). [9]

The proposed unbuilt section as replanned in 1964 would have extended from not from the Lombard St. exit of Doyle Drive along Lombard St. as originally planned in 1955, but from the Marina Blvd. exit of Doyle Drive, through the Marina Green and then along the north side of Fort Mason, then along the north side of Bay Street to the Embarcadero and then south along the Embarcadero to connect with the former Embarcadero Freeway. The section between the Golden Gate Bridge (including an upgraded Doyle Drive) and Van Ness Ave. would have been named the Golden Gate Freeway; the rest of the freeway to the east of Van Ness Ave. would have been the extended originally planned full length of the Embarcadero Freeway, originally planned to extend from Van Ness Ave. to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge--going east first down the north side of Bay Street, then going southeast curving around the base of Telegraph Hill and meeting at Broadway the former end of the actually constructed section of the Embarcadero Freeway. [10] [11]

In the 1964 renumbering, Route 480 was designated for the full route of I-480, including the US 101 concurrency. The route was deleted from the Interstate Highway System in January 1968, with Interstate 280 being rerouted north of Daly City at the same time. The short piece of former I-480 from the junction with new I-280 (previously State Route 87) south to the Bay Bridge approach became part of I-280 (to allow I-280 to meet I-80).[6] These changes were made to the state highway system in 1968; Route 480 was only truncated slightly, with the 5.47 miles[12] (8.80 km) from I-280 to SR 1 remaining, though downgraded to State Route 480.[8]

The Embarcadero Freeway was featured in several films, including Magnum Force, Freebie and the Bean, Bullitt, Serial, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Time After Time, and Koyaanisqatsi, as well as several TV shows such as Full House (in several overhead screen shots) and The Streets of San Francisco. In a shot at the start of Zodiac, the freeway was digitally added behind a shot of the Ferry Building.


Section of the Embarcadero Freeway in front of the Ferry Building during demolition

The Board of Supervisors voted on November 5, 1985 to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway.[7] The proposal was put to the voters in 1987, and soundly defeated. The October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the structure, and Caltrans planned to retrofit and retain the two-decker freeway. Many accounts since then have suggested that the earthquake resulted in the demolition of the freeway, but the record shows that the city convulsed over the issue, with many supporting a rebuild. Then Mayor Art Agnos proposed instead demolishing the freeway in favor of a boulevard with an underpass at the Ferry Building to allow for a large plaza.

Opposition to demolishing the freeway mounted again, with over 20,000 signatures gathered to again create a ballot measure. The strongest opposition came from Chinatown and the city's downtown. People in Chinatown thought that the Embarcadero Freeway had good feng shui because it was shaped on the map like a dragon and it gave tourist customers easy access to get to Chinatown. Agnos continued to negotiate with federal and state officials to win enough funding to make the demolition practical, and the opposition quieted. Demolition began on February 27, 1991.[13] That year Agnos was defeated for re-election as Chinatown switched its support away from him.

On June 16, 2006, the Port of San Francisco unveiled a monument to Mayor Agnos honoring his vision and courage, noting:

This pedestrian pier commemorates the achievement of Mayor Agnos in leaving our city better and stronger than he found it.

Legislative changes that year deleted Route 480 from the state highway system; the northwest section was transferred to U.S. Route 101.[8] The only piece of the Embarcadero Freeway to remain was the beginning of the ramp from the Bay Bridge to Fremont Street, including a short ramp stub that formerly carried traffic to the freeway (Interstate 280 after 1968). This part was rebuilt as a part of the Bay Bridge retrofit project. (I-280 was never finished to that interchange, though its legislative definition still takes it there.[14])

Prior to the earthquake, the Embarcadero Freeway carried approximately 70,000 vehicles daily in the vicinity of the Ferry Building. Another 40,000 vehicles/day used associated ramps at Main and Beale Sts.

In 2003, Caltrans began work on a retrofitting project to replace the western approach to the Bay Bridge. This retrofitting is part of a larger, $6 billion project to upgrade the aging Bay Bridge to modern earthquake standards, which includes replacing the entire eastern span. While the entire project is scheduled to be complete in 2013, the west approach is scheduled for completion by 2009. In late 2005, Caltrans began the demolition of the original west approach after traffic was routed onto a temporary bypass structure. As a result of this retrofitting project, all old parts of the approach have been replaced, removing the final remains of the Embarcadero Freeway. [15]


Exit list

Map of the Embarcadero Freeway (purple)

The following is an exit list of the former Embarcadero Freeway prior to the Loma Prieta earthquake and subsequent demolition.

The entire route was in San Francisco.

Destinations Notes
I-80 east (Bay Bridge) – Oakland Southbound exit and northbound entrance
US 101 south (Bayshore Freeway via I-80 west) – San Jose Southbound exit and northbound entrance
Main Street Northbound exit
Beale Street Southbound entrance
Washington Street Northbound exit
Clay Street Southbound entrance
Broadway, Battery Street Northbound exit
Broadway, Sansome Street Southbound entrance
Gap in SR 480
US 101Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Civic Center


External links

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