I believe there was once a plan for a mid-peninsula bridge in the San Francisco Bay. This might have been in the 1950's. The plan was scraped. Can you please get me details on the bridge plan? I believe it was supposed to originate just north of SFO.
Hello! Thanks for your question about plans for an additional mid-peninsula bridge in the San Francisco Bay. The short version is that the Southern Crossing, a proposed bridge spanning the San Francisco Bay south of the Bay Bridge and north of the San Mateo Bridge, has been debated off and on since the late 1940s but has never been approved for various reasons—but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Below you will find a deep dive of my findings.
My approach to your question was to search the most credible and relevant academic, government, and media sources to find documentation related to the proposed bridge, then present my findings chronologically. At your request, I explored period press accounts and documents detailing the history of the bridge, the results of which are discussed below. With that said, let's jump right in!
Following World War II, San Francisco's bridges and roads were faced with increasing vehicle traffic as the population grew. Local officials started looking into plans for additional bridge designs linking San Francisco to Sausalito, Tiburon, and Oakland by way of Alameda Island. By 1947, eleven different crossing locations linking San Francisco to Alameda were on the table. The most popular design became known as the Southern Crossing.
In 1949, the California Division of San Francisco Bay Toll Crossings outlined its plans for the Southern Crossing, pointing at its western terminal in the vicinity of Telegraph Hill, Rincon Hill, Potrero Point, or Hunter Point, with the eastern terminal in either Key Route Mole, Oakland Mole, Alameda, or Bay Farm Island. They noted that the second crossing would serve two main purposes: it would 1) reduce congestion on the Bay Bridge, and 2) provide a "practical means of reaching all parts where future development is likely to occur."
The one and only Frank Lloyd Wright had a hand in the Southern Crossing: when he heard of plans for a second bay bridge, he decided that something more understated was needed so as not to mar the beautiful scenery of the Bay Area. In 1949 he developed drawings for a concrete bridge, complete with a garden and scenic stopping point at its midpoint.
While there were various drawings and plans discussed throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Southern Crossing never seemed to gain enough momentum for approval. It seems that local authorities attempted to pick up traction in 1970, when the San Francisco Examiner published an article in favor of the bridge, noting that it would divert traffic and "allow 45,000 vehicles to bypass downtown San Francisco." The Oakland Board of Port Commissioners echoed these arguments in a 1970 Resolution, arguing that "immediate construction ... is of vital importance in meeting the needs of the commerce, shipping and navigation of the Port of Oakland, the Metropolitan Oakland International Airport and the economic welfare of the San Francisco Bay Area."
This eventually resulted in Proposition A reaching the San Francisco ballot in 1972: "Shall the California Toll Bridge Authority construct a Southern Crossing Bridge without further specific approval by the California Legislature?" There was significant opposition to the vote, with arguments that the bridge would be costly, increase pollution and traffic, and reduce revenue of the BART public transit system, which had just gained increased capacity and new traincars. The city voted overwhelmingly against the bridge (71% No to 29% Yes) and plans for the Southern Crossing were shelved.
The Southern Crossing surfaced later in the media in 2002, when the Metropolitan Transportation Commission deemed the effort too costly for the city, concluding the bridge would cost a whopping $8.2 billion. But like the fabled phoenix rising from the ashes, the Southern Crossing was revived yet again in 2010 when the Bay Area Toll Authority voted to spend up to $400,000 on another study of the project's feasibility. There has been scant mention in the media of the bridge since then.
To wrap it up, the San Francisco Bay Area's proposed Southern Crossing bridge has a long and rich history. Although the project currently seems to be on ice, something tells me we haven't seen the last of the Southern Crossing.
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