Another bay bridge? 70 years of absurd, crazy and downright stupid bay plans


Approximately 260,000 vehicles cross the Bay Bridge each day. Almost as many outrageous ideas have been thrown around for a second transverse span since the original opened in 1936.

The Bay Bridge is a workhorse of the region’s transit infrastructure, but planners, politicians, and lunatics have for decades made proposals to build another structure in the San Francisco Bay area to alleviate the burden. traffic and facilitate travel. A recent search of The Chronicle’s archives revealed photos, sketches, and stories that have remained hidden – many for good reason – for years, and they show a penchant for the fantastic (a crossed clover leaf!) butterfly bridge).

Discussions on a second Bay Bridge began less than 10 years after the first of the first. Representative Richard J. Welch of San Francisco believed that another span was not only a good idea, but a necessity. The May 1, 1946 edition of The Chronicle reported that a joint Army-Navy engineering council had been formed to respond to the controversy and decide whether the plans would proceed.

Why an Army-Navy board? Army clearance was needed before a waterway could be bridged or dammed, and the navy, with many facilities in the bay area, had expressed opposition to another bay bridge.

According to the August 16, 1946 edition of The Chronicle: “Every engineer, nutcase, politician and lobby group had the opportunity to speak at the meeting before the Army and Navy Board of Directors. . After six months of study, the board of directors approved a new span on February 4, 1947.

The recommendation was for a low-level six-way combo bridge and tube from the foot of Army Street in San Francisco to the foot of Fifth Street in Alameda. An “immediate” construction was recommended. The Chronicle the next day said: “Another bridge between San Francisco and East Bay was secured yesterday.

This second crossing of San Francisco Bay, called the new Trans-Bay Bridge in the drawing, would leave San Francisco at Army Street and arrive in the East Bay just south of Naval Air Station Alameda. Photo published January 27, 1947, p. 13 Handout

At that point, everyone thought the hard part was over. For 70 years, however, indecision as to where a bridge would be built and how it would be paid for prevented a second pass.

An editorial in the Chronicle of April 21, 1958 summed up the controversy: “More crossings are needed over San Francisco Bay. While this statement is generally undisputed, it is perhaps the only statement on the subject of transbay communications that can be made without causing an explosion on the part of part of this balkanized, provincial, poorly organized community. and politically misguided Bay Area.

In 1971 Governor Ronald Reagan and Bridge Authority chief engineer ER “Mike” Foley lobbied for construction to begin the following year, but agencies in San Francisco, Alameda and San Leandro voted. against the second level crossing. The San Francisco board of directors cited an increase in traffic that it said would bring more smog and congestion to the city.

Foley swept the votes. San Francisco backed the plan for 10 years, he argued, and the Bridge Authority didn’t need the city’s approval anyway. Powerful Assembly Member Leo Ryan intervened, saying the second crossing would be a disaster for the newly opened BART system and a “blow to the precarious ecological balance of the bay.”

Ryan added: “This is a classic example of the damned public attitude of an Ahab-like character named Mike Foley trying to build a monument to himself.”


Several political organizations have called for construction to be delayed until the impact of BART on traffic in the Bay Area can be assessed.

This BART-counter-traffic research is ongoing, while the desire for a second transbay bridge remains.

Chronicle Transit reporter Michael Cabanatuan wrote last week: “After (Senator Dianne) Feinstein pitched the idea in 2000, the commission undertook a two-year study of what it would cost. He concluded that it would cost $ 8.2 billion to build a bridge between Highway 238 in Hayward and the peninsula, saying it was cheaper than a new BART tube between San Francisco and Oakland but still more expensive. than what the Bay Area could possibly afford.

“Another two-year study, completed in 2012, estimated the cost of a bridge that would carry both cars and some form of public transportation at $ 12.4 billion.”

Bill Van Niekerken is the Library Director of the San Francisco Chronicle, where he has worked since 1985. In his weekly column, From the Archive, he explores the depths of the Chronicle’s vast photographic archive in search of interesting historical tales related to the city. by the bay.


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