Mayor’s Transpo Chief: “Let’s Be San Francisco and Take Down the Freeway”

The 280 freeway looking from Potrero Hill, where it divides the neighborhood from Mission Bay. Photo: ## Patrick/Flickr##

The idea of removing the northern section of Highway 280 near Mission Bay is gaining more traction as planners look for ideal ways to usher in high-speed rail and transit-oriented development in downtown San Francisco.

At a SPUR forum yesterday, Mayor Ed Lee’s transportation policy director, Gillian Gillett, sketched out a proposal to follow in the footsteps of the removals of the Embarcadero Freeway and a section of the Central Freeway, which revitalized the neighborhoods the roads used to divide. As Adina Levin at Green Caltrain reported, Gillett argued that replacing the elevated portion of I-280 with a street-level boulevard, from its current terminus at 4th and King Streets south to 16th Street, would improve the livability of the area, open up land to develop new neighborhoods, provide funding through real estate revenue, and open up engineering solutions to facilitate the extension of Caltrain and CA High-Speed Rail to the planned Transbay Transit Center.

If the freeway is left to stand, its pillars would present an engineering obstacle to running the train tracks undergound, meaning the only other feasible way to allow rail tracks to safely and expediently cross 16th Street would be to dip 16th underneath the tracks. And that would make the intersection — a gateway to Mission Bay — even more hostile for people walking and biking than it already is.

As past cases have shown, creating a surface street where that part of I-280 now stands and integrating it into the neighborhood would actually reduce overall car traffic. In a moment that would make the city’s mid-20th Century freeway protesters proud, Gillett told the crowd, “Let’s be San Francisco and take down the freeway.”

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe called the proposal “an exciting opportunity to re-orient our city around sustainable public transportation and create a more walkable city.”

The north end of the 280 freeway, where it transitions into a boulevard on King Street approaching 4th Street. Photo: ##

“Freeways don’t belong in cities,” she said. “They’re enormous barriers, and cars getting on and off them at high speeds pose the greatest risks to pedestrians. Folks knew that in Hayes Valley, and they took down the Central Freeway and helped knit San Francisco’s urban fabric back together.”

Mississippi and 16th Streets, where the 280 freeway passes over. Photo from the Mayor's Office Presentation via ## Caltrain##

Long a dream of livable streets advocates, the possible removal of the inner portion of I-280 is being studied by the CA High-Speed Rail Authority at the urging of San Francisco officials, who also see it as a way to open up engineering options for a more direct rail alignment toward the Transbay Center, and to free up land for development that could help fund the project.

In a memo to Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger, Gillett wrote:

We need to create a faster and cheaper [Downtown Extension] alignment, realize the full value of the 4th & King Streets Railyard site, and eliminate the intrusiveness of I-280 in Mission Bay by terminating it at 16th Street and replacing it with a boulevard, based on the lessons learned from the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway to create a new Rincon Hill neighborhood and the Central Freeway to create the new Market-Octavia neighborhood.

As to whether Mayor Lee himself backs the proposed freeway removal, it seems likely given Gillett’s position at City Hall, but to make sure, we’ve put in an inquiry to his office, and have yet to hear back.

To look at the development possibilities for the land occupied by the 280 freeway and Caltrain storage yards, the Planning Department commissioned a study released last month [PDF], which estimated the value of removing the freeway in terms of development. Without the freeway, more space could feasibly be used for housing, and nearby land would be worth $228 million, compared to a value of $148 million if the freeway is retained. The difference in land value largely comes from the noise, pollution, danger, and visual blight that comes with living next to a freeway, the authors noted. “Reconfiguration of Highway 280 to create a boulevard would increase the value of the land, both from a financial standpoint and also from the perspective of improving the physical environment,” the study said.

Cheryl Brinkman, a member of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, said she “definitely supports taking a serious look at [the freeway removal] option.”

“I think we are very lucky in SF that we have the example of the Embarcadero freeway coming down, we all got to see what a big change that meant for the waterfront. So, with that in mind, we should be more open to a big change like a freeway coming down. I am certainly glad we are having the discussion.”

The alternative to tearing down the freeway. Image: CAHSRA via the Mayor's Office

In addition, without the freeway, train tracks could run under 16th Street, instead of the other way around. This would be far preferable for the city’s surface transit, biking, and walking environment.

Were the train tracks to kept at ground-level with 16th Street, it would cause delays for Muni’s 22-Fillmore line, which the SFMTA plans to re-route on to 16th east of Kansas Street with center-running bus lanes, as part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project. That proposal is aimed at speeding up the 22 and moving the line closer to serve the UCSF campus and workers coming to developing Mission Bay, according to the SFMTA’s website.

“The 16th street at-grade crossing is nearing gridlock today,” Levin noted on Green Caltrain. “More trains from electrified Caltrain and high speed rail will make grade separation a necessity.”

Brinkman agreed: “The alternatives look pretty unwelcoming to pedestrians and people on bikes, and as [Levin] noted, create gridlock for transit and autos,” she said. “I would hate for the two neighborhoods to be cut off from each other on either side of the train tracks, and to lose the opportunity to use the land for other things, like housing or businesses.”

There’s currently no timeline set for any possible removal of the freeway, but if approved by the CAHSRA, Caltrans and city agencies, it would be part of the larger project to extend Caltrain and high-speed rail tracks from 4th and King to the Transbay Center, which is still in its early stages. The CAHSRA currently aims to open high-speed rail service to Los Angeles by 2029.

  • I view is that all the stuff proposed is to mainly keep the 16th Street at grade across the Caltrain/I-280 alignment (because the other alternative is to lower 16th Street through that area.) It is a lot of money to relocate existing facilities just so that the area is slightly more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists (16th Street & 7th Street intersection would become the new Market & Octavia). The 16th Street would have a slow and mediocre bus line call 22-Fillmore.

    I think the whole relocation project could cost over a $1 billion, and would be hard to economically justify even with the benefit of additional development on the rail yard beyond just building over it. I wonder what would happen instead if that same money is to fund something like SOMA/16th Street streetcar/LRT instead.

    Construction staging is also an issue. The idea of removing the freeway is to make it easier to relocate Caltrain/HSR underground. On the other hand, you can’t have an at grade boulevard until the trains are relocated underground. This could mean that it will be many years, and many baseball seasons between tearing down the freeway and replacement with the boulevard.

    If the trains are relocated underground, there would be a need to provide additional capacity that wasn’t originally planned under DTX. The old plan assumed that the surface station would remain in some form. The entire train storage space would have to be placed underground, along with additional platforms for the Giants games. That means the cost of relocation is actually much higher, and all of that won’t actually result in significant decrease in travel time for train riders.

    If planners can propose things far out of the way to make it more “attractive” to take the 22-Fillmore or ride a bike through 16th Street & 7th Street, without actually doing anything to reduce travel time, why not propose things far out in the other direction by building an east-west streetcar/LRT. It could reduce travel time, enhanced reliability, and certainly make the Showplace Square/16th Street corridor more attractive for TOD, and could generate more transit ridership.

  • Tony Kelly

    it’s too bad that the mayor’s office is only looking at this through the prism of land values in mission bay; it’s really worth looking at taking down 280 all the way to alemany boulevard.

  • Iskandr

    Well, the right idea, hashed out in Rescue Muni a decade ago, was to build a branch of the N Judah to a loop at the Museums turning on 9th to enter the Park.    Going the other direction  at Church, cars from this route would turn onto the current J tracks to 16th St thence new trackage all the way to 3rd St.   One major advantage is having direct rail service from UCSF main campus to Mission Bay without going through downtown.   As soon as the Port Commission wakes up and the 18/19th St loop is completed we have the southern terminal for the route as well as the E Embarcadero line.

  •  If we want to get rid of one of the freeways we should get rid of 101 north of 280. The land under 101 is more valuable than 280.

  • Anonymous

    This is a interesting idea – however this also assumes high speed rail is going to actually get built. I am hella supportive of HSR , but sadly we have a permanent political class in California and the GOP here and in the US House that is on a militant religious crusade to crush it, facts be damned.

  • Shotwellian

    I agree that we need to at least include in the studies the possibility of removing 280 farther south than Mission Bay, at least to Cesar Chavez. This would open up huge transit-oriented development opportunities around the 22nd Street station, which is currently incredibly shabby and wheelchair inaccessible to boot. (Also, from a strategic POV, including a more ambitious freeway removal as a possibility would make removing 280 only down to Mission Bay the smaller, more moderate alternative.)

  • vcs

    The real issue here is that US-101/I-80 is completely clogged up with East Bay-to-Peninsula suburban commuters, and is practically unusable for San Francisco-bound traffic. I-280 functions as the “back way” into central SF.

    If Bay Bridge traffic was somehow separated from SF-bound traffic on US-101/I-80, then 280 would entirely unnecessary north of Cesar Chavez. 

    In an alternate reality, they would have built the “Southern Crossing” and we wouldn’t have all these surburb-to-suburb drivers clogging up our congested urban roads in San Francisco. However that’s unlikely to ever happen.

  • Not so about only Republicans opposing high-speed rail. As a Democrat I too oppose this dumb project. It will never be built, because the money isn’t there. Even the first segment in the Central Valley will be derailed, so to speak, by litigation. Funny but all those successful valley farms don’t want a railroad plowing through their fields.

    City Hall has learned nothing from the Octavia Blvd. fiasco. If you take down freeways, you get a lot more of that freeway traffic on the surface streets of the
     city. Of course if you think Octavia Blvd. is a triumph of planning and traffic management, taking down the 280 makes perfect sense. 

  • I took the SamTrans KX many times. In the northbound direction, the bus slows to a crawl in mid afternoon north of 280 because of the East Bay traffic. In the southbound direction, bus slows at the on ramp but travels at a normal speed once it got into the freeway.

    The same goes with the Muni 8X. It is normal for the 8X to use Potrero instead of 101 for the northbound direction in the afternoon.

    Both lines can’t use 280 because the KX serves stop at the Civic Center (which is harder to get from 280) and 8X is not able to get on 280 from San Bruno Avenue.

  • Anonymous

    Part of Gilletts argument is that it isn’t a good idea for DTX to depend on HSR funding. It would be better if it was possible to create an alternative alignment that would be cheaper, and that would allow San Francisco real estate development to contribute more money to the project.

  • Since CalTrain and two Muni Metro lines stop at 4th and King, we should be talking about building an underground station for all three. 

  • Anonymous

    In the presentation on Thursday, Gillett talked at length about the City’s land use plans for the neighborhoods around the area.  The City wants to be able to add housing and jobs, and this is seen as a potential location for growth.  The land under the railyards and the 280 freeway separate SOMA and Potrero from Mission Bay.  SF wants to be able to reconnect those areas by building new neighborhoods between them, and reconnect the street grid across the new neighborhoods.

    The City commissioned a study to analyze the potential development of the land in several scenarios: that the goal of the proposal is just to make the area “slightly more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists” is quite different from what Gillett actually said.  It is possible that all of the land use planning is merely a pretext for creating a different grade separation, but it seems more likely that she said what she meant, and that San Francisco has a goal of building new neighborhoods in the area.

  • As general design principles, eliminating freeways from cities is good, putting public transit underground is good, and increasing population density in cities (up to a certain point) is good. Freeway elimination and underground transit make city neighborhoods healthier, quieter, and more pleasant, underground transit is more efficient (both in terms of energy and speed of transport), and increased density decreases the overall ecological footprint of the humans involved. So there are many good reasons for the stretch of 280 north of 16th (and even north of Cesar Chavez) to go and very few for it to stay. I’m not surprised, however, that it is the value of the land rather than the other factors that will most likely spell the freeway’s demise.

    Even if our vision of the next two decades is just an extension of the status quo–a car-based society where everyone is fighting for their share of limited pavement–land values in San Francisco would probably mean condos would win out over this fairly unproductive use of space. But if you believe there will be just as many cars in the Bay Area in ten years as now (or even more) I can see how this might induce a sense of panic and despair that the only result can be congestion and gridlock.

    But if you understand that world net energy production is declining (net energy=the energy available for use after the energy used to produce that energy is subtracted) you realize we have to prepare for transportation options other than private cars because a decade from now, even if we keep burning oil and coal the way we do, there just won’t be enough energy (gasoline or electric) to power the current fleet. In addition, if the human race keeps burning coal and emitting carbon the way we are, we are simply going to make the planet unlivable very soon, ultimately causing literally billions to die of drought, famine, climate-induced wars, and disease. Coal supplies 30% of the world’s energy right now. To get ourselves off of it is going to require a large drop in energy consumption (either through efficiency or sheer non-use) and a scramble to build out non-carbon emitting energy sources as fast as we can. There will not be enough electricity to power 254 million electric cars (the current US fleet of passenger vehicles) for decades.

    Oil is a world commodity, and the price is set by other countries’ demand more than our own. Real oil production (as opposed to ethanol or natural gas liquids that, while they count as “oil”, have much less energy per barrel and NGL’s can’t be made into gasoline) has plateaued world-wide and many major oil-producing nations are in decline. All over the world the oil that is left is more difficult and takes more money and energy to extract and refine. In addition, domestic oil consumption in oil-producing countries is going up, leaving these countries with less to export. The only reason oil prices aren’t higher already is that European countries have been dropping their oil consumption dramatically due to severe economic troubles. To top it off, droughts mean we can’t keep turning food into fuel for our cars. Ethanol, currently 10% of our gasoline supply, will necessarily disappear.  And then there’s the carbon that we simply have to stop putting into the air.

    The cars we see all around us, that we have designed our way of life around, that we have grown up spending a very large portion of our lives in, are going away. I know this seems unbelievable. Impossible.  Nevertheless, it will happen. There just isn’t the energy, much less the carbon-free energy.

    So if you lived in a city, state and country that had only 10% of the private cars it currently does, where most freight was shipped by rail, where air travel had become again an expensive luxury, how would you want your city designed? How much street space would you want dedicated to cars? Which, if any, freeways would still make sense? And how would you want to travel long distance–on a smooth, quiet 180 mph train, or on a crowded 50 mph bus on poorly maintained roads?

    I think if most of us really understood the coming energy issues, we would be clamoring for as much passenger rail, underground transit, and good biking and walking facilities as we could possibly get while there was still time and money to build them. And we would brush aside this part of 280 like a cobweb leftover from the 20th century. Perhaps we would save a few chunks for The Automotive Century Museum our great-grandchildren will someday visit.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “City Hall has learned nothing from the Octavia Blvd. fiasco.  … Of course if you think Octavia Blvd. is a triumph of planning and traffic management, taking down the 280 makes perfect sense. ”

    It is amusing to see that one person thinks Octavia Blvd is a fiasco.  Pretty much everyone else in the world thinks it is a great success. It follows that taking down 280 does make perfect sense.

  • monkeyboy

    What a totally dumb idea. Have we not learned anything from the Octvavia Blvd. traffic disaster?

    Where exactly will all this (freeway) traffic go if the freeway is torn down?

  • Is it a success when it introduced Market/Octavia intersection? Yes it looks nice visually, but now cyclists have to deal with the danger of cars making illegal right turns from Market. Transit service is still no better when there was a freeway.

    I am not a fan of freeways (there have been plenty of rail projects in the Bay Area that were associated withe freeway building/widening) so far the focus has been to make driving and parking more miserable and that somehow people won’t drive, yet transit has not improved. People can be discouraged to drive and take transit for special events like sports, concerts, parades, etc, but many won’t do it to get to and from work everyday.

    Taking down 280 is particularly expensive because Caltrain would have to be placed underground. For the same money to put Caltrain underground I rather want meaningful transit improvements like 16th Street streetcar/LRT.

  •  You might as well suggesting that people eventually turn vegan because eating meat also produces a lot of carbon. If you’re a vegan it seems natural, but for those who don’t it is like gun owners being told that they can’t keep their guns.

    The automotive industry isn’t going to stay status quo regarding energy use, etc, as long as it means doing so would help them stay in business longer by making it as affordable to the public. GM and Ford aren’t going to end production of SUVs and make bikes instead.

  • mikesonn

    Like a Central Subway?

  • I expect GM and Ford will get in the business of making trams and rail cars or they will go out of business. Whether this happens in five years, ten or fifteen, the longer it takes, the less likelihood that our children will have a way of life even remotely comparable to our own in terms of material possessions, food supply, social order, etc.

    I don’t at all expect people will suddenly turn vegan, but I do think people will end up eating less meat quite soon, especially beef, since it is essentially subsidized through subsidized corn. Even this summer we will see rising meat and dairy prices due to last summer’s Midwest drought. And these prices still won’t reflect the externalities of the carbon emissions the meat industry creates.

    However, in the US agriculture accounts for only 7% of total greenhouse emissions.  Of this 7%, cattle digestion that creates methane accounts for 1/3 and manure management accounts for another 15%. So only about 3 1/2 percent of greenhouse gases in the US are due to the meat industry, whereas electricity accounts for 34% (primarily due to burning of coal and natural gas), transportation accounts for 27% (primarily due to combustion of oil products), and industry accounts for 20% (primarily due to burning fossil fuels for energy and certain chemical reactions that release greenhouse gases.)  Methane has more impact on the climate than CO2, and current agricultural practices could and should certainly be changed to dramatically reduce this industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. But focusing on meat rather than coal and cars and trucks will not get us anywhere near the greenhouse gas reductions we need quite soon.

    The more quickly true external costs become reflected in the prices of the things we buy, the more quickly we align ourselves with a future that has at least a hope of being sustainable (i.e. non-catastrophic.) Five more years of SUVs and coal burning and that hope goes away.

  • This is pure fantasy re cars in the future. GM and Ford are doing very well, thank you, and future cars will be electric and/or low fuel, high-mileage. Putting transit underground is also pure fantasy—the Central Subway is going to cost a billion dollars a mile. SF’s best bet will be giving Muni enough money to keep buses and streetcars in service and avoiding costly new rail projects. Buses are the best investment, since they are cheaper than rail and provide more flexibility in the system.

  • Those responsible for bringing 50,000 vehicles a day to the surface streets of Hayes Valley of course think Octavia is a triumph of planning and traffic engineering. But there are few businesses on those blocks between Market and Fell, since those blocks are a lot like a freeway.

    There’s no free lunch re traffic in the city. And denying that taking down the Central Freeway overpass in Hayes Valley didn’t always involve that traffic trade-off is, well, denying the reality of what’s been created there. Anyone who actually takes the trouble to go there and look at it has to acknowledge the reality.

  • mikesonn

    Reality? You must be talking about Hayes Valley now being one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city. Shoot, huh?

  • Mike:

    “Hot” in what way? Why aren’t there many businesses on Octavia between Market and Fell Streets? It’s an expressway whose only real function is moving traffic to and from the freeway. Besides, I see a lot of turnover in those botiques on Hayes Street.

  • mikesonn

    Hot as in desirable and there are businesses on Octavia between Market and Fell, but I’m not sure why that is such a big deal to you. Also, there is turn over all around the city over the last few years due to recession but the fact that those store fronts don’t stay empty long is strong enough evidence of demand.

  • Guest

    mission bay is like a sterile part of san jose. the freeway is more interesting.

  • Jarrett M

    High speed rail would benefit from this proposal since the alignment in and out of the city won’t be as curvy, but it primarily benefits Caltrain. New residential and office space directly above the proposed underground 4th and King Terminal will generate new riders for Caltrain and the new 16th street station would be next door to the UCSF campus and the new jobs coming into Mission Bay, not to mention there will be a direct connection with the 22 Filmore, which will soon run in dedicated transit lanes. This is a benefit to San Francisco and the Bay Area first, high speed rail second. 

  • Andy – you make all sorts of arguments that we can’t slow traffic down just to save a few cyclist and pedestrian lives. Now you are suddenly decrying Market/Octavia because it’s a hazard to cyclists and pedestrians. The standard hypocrisy – “I like bike lanes, just not this bike lane”
    Discussing Market/Octavia by itself dismisses the fact that the Central Freeway used to drop tons of traffic into Fell/Laguna and was a hazard itself.
    “looks nice visually?” The tearing down of the freeway has opened a lot of land for development and dramatically increased real estate values and retail traffic in Hayes Valley. That’s a lot of money for the city. And we didn’t have to spend the money to retrofit the old freeway.
    We can tune the Market/Octavia intersection to make it safer – but the only way we get the extra housing stock, retail vibrancy, and property tax base was to tear down the Central Freeway.

  • Yes, of course you can slow traffic down by making it harder to drive in the city, but you aren’t going to make that traffic go away. The Central Freeway used to perform the same function that Octavia Blvd. does now—moving traffic to and from the freeway entrance, which is now on the other side of Market Street. Is having all that traffic on Octavia and other surface streets in the neighborhood a great advance over having it go over the neighborhood? Not surprising that the real estate people like the new arrangement, but really who wants to live by a street that serves as a freeway conduit?

    On average fewer than two cyclists a year die on city streets, and, according to the city’s numbers, cyclists cause half their own injury accidents. And there is no “retail vibrancy” on Octavia Blvd. itself. If any of the 50,000 motorists who drive through the middle of Hayes Valley wanted to stop and explore the neighborhood, where would they park?

  •  On the other hand the redevelopment of 4th & King rail yard won’t mean much for existing riders and the majority of those who would be traveling through.

    I have nothing against redevelopment of the rail yard per se. I am however concerned about the possibility that extending the subway to 16th Street would be too expensive to justify the incremental benefit for the development, particularly the public benefit. This is in a way not too different than widening a freeway (something done with a public expense) to serve a sprawl development elsewhere (private developers). But unlike widening freeways, or extension of rail, this itself won’t result in more or significantly faster transit, which would be enjoyed by others that won’t work, live, or shop in the development.

    It would be a more fair scenario where the entire project cost would be funded by the taxes collected on the redevelopment. I don’t think funding that can actually be used to pay for expanded transit service elsewhere should be used to pay for relocation of existing infrastructure for the benefit of private developers.

  • Rob – all you have to do is look at the market value of properties in Hayes Valley before, and after. After – a 75 percent increase for average sales.

    Or look at retail sales receipts for the cordon in question. Up 227% since the Central Freeway was torn down.

    That is money in the pockets of citizens, of businesses, and the City in terms of taxes, both property and sales.

    Anyone who would not trade the Freeway for those sorts of results is a ninny.

  • Andy – the property taxes on the redeveloped property will be collected until forever. Trying to pencil the project out in the short term without accounting for a hundred years of vacant land which has an assessment of bupkus, to extremely expensive land re-assesed at development time to 2015 values, is completely short sighted. That is a benefit for San Francisco…. not private developers.

  • Market Street did not have such danger until the intersection was created, and the cyclists who got injured were not violating any laws (like running red lights, etc) and did exactly what the planners want them to ride (straight through without worrying about right turning traffic).

    This is not the same as people in certain areas that tend to walk across the street willy-nilly and somehow the speed limit should be lowered in case those people won’t hurt themselves so much if they decided to cross the street without paying attention to traffic.

    If say the Octavia doesn’t have an intersection at Market and rather just pass through overhead, then that won’t be an issue. Of course rerouting of the bike lane (either over or under the intersection, or at the street median rather than side) could help. But now the poor design is set and any radical change needed to prevent such collision (enforcement like red light cameras doesn’t necessarily mean prevention) would be very hard to implement.

  • In the past rail lines like N-Judah and Twin Peaks tunnel were funded by the developments in the Sunset. So I am not asking for things that are unreasonable.

    Also the idea is not zero development, but development that won’t require a subsidy by using external funds to relocate existing transportation facilities. So you need to calculate the extra revenue coming from the development with relocated facilities against the cost of relocating those facilities. When you relocate a facility, the external impacts need to be taken account of, you can’t assume that all the trains are going to be stored in San Jose (so they don’t need to build more underground space for train storage) because it would result in greater operating costs for Caltrain.

    Development value is subject to various policies. A land may be valuable in certain areas but zoning policies forbid the land owner from doing things to extract the maximum revenue. Zoning policies are political.

  • vcs

    There was a proposal to put Octavia underneath Market Street, which unfortunately wasn’t pursued. 

    Also, Hayes Valley started to turn-around immediately after they tore down those super-nasty housing projects. An inconvenient fact which is rarely mentioned in this discussions.

  • Dipping 16th Street under the freeway would basically turn that area into a new maze, just like 101/Bayshore/Potrero/Cesar Chavez.  I’m open to the idea of terminating 280 at 16th Street, but why replace it with a boulevard at all when 7th Street is already there?  Build on/off-ramps at 16th, improve the Berry-7th connection, and build no other roads.

    Oh, and while we’re at it, build a loop for the E-Embarcadero where 280 currently touches down at King.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps people will find alternative ways to get to the city (Bart, Caltrain, carpooling, etc.)

  • Anonymous

    Get rid of both 101 and 280. It is utterly incomprehensible how we ever thought slamming freeways right through the middle of cities was a good idea. I do believe that, in 2 generations, the baby boomer fixation on decimating cities with freeways will be seen as one of the greatest urban design mistakes.

  • You could get rid of 101 if there’s an alternative to the Bay Bridge. Given the traffic volume and types of traffic, I think it is better off to be separated from traffic on local streets. Secondly, freeways provide fast transit service. The 8X is very well used line, and people prefer it over the 9/9L and the T line. Get rid of 101 and all those transit riders would have to sit through red lights and local stops.

  •  Not necessarily, the hairball design was built in an era where safety was not taken into account. If the intersection is dipped it would be more like this one in Oakland:

    And of course the entire intersection does not have to be lowered, just certain lanes that need to get under the tracks. (and build a separate bike/ped crossing) and would look like this on the ground: Those who need to get from 7th Street can deviate a block or two like 19th Avenue.

  • mikesonn

    Andy, the T line currently doesn’t connect to Chinatown, you do realize that right?

    And again, arguing for private auto infrastructure under the very weak guise of public transit benefit.

    jd_x, “the baby boomer fixation on decimating cities with freeways” is already seen as one of the greatest urban design mistakes.

  • Anonymous

    The whole idea is that tearing down the freeway will make it more inviting to visitors/potential customers who are now deterred by the huge perceived barrier – opening it up to retail and dining possibilities and making it less sterile.

  • Anonymous

     “You might as well suggesting that people eventually turn vegan because eating meat also produces a lot of carbon.”

    When we FINALLY get around to putting a price on carbon, people will certainly eat less meat for that very reason, and drive less as well.  That’s what internalizing externalities is all about.

  • DJ

    Stanford’s urban design studio class used the I-280 takedown as its case study last spring and presented its findings to the SF Planning Department in June. We found that the impacts of freeway removal could be even greater considering the blighted areas on 7th in Showplace Square where the freeway currently casts its shadow. An opportunity for an infill Caltrain station at 16th St. also exists. Here’s a link to our project:

  • Anonymous

    It wasn’t a “baby boomer fixation on decimating cities with freeways.”  The Interstate Highway system was signed into law by Eisenhower and built largely under Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, when baby boomers were still in school.  No, it was the Greatest Generation who designed, developed and built the freeway system. 

  • It’s nothing but a fantasy of the anti-car cult that the city can somehow handle all its traffic without freeways. I cite again the Octavia Blvd/Central Freeway fiasco. The land values in Hayes Valley would have boomed with or without the Central Freeway, but Octavia Blvd. between Fell and Market Street is a retail/commercial wasteland. Yes, eventually there will be housing on the valuable property lining Octavia, but that’s due to property values in SF overall, not to some magical effect from taking down the Central Freeway overpass. We’re still going to be left with a neighborhood that has more than 50,000 vehicles a day on its main street.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think that the bicyclists and pedestrians who have been struck and killed at Market and Octavia share your opinion.

  • p.chazz:

    On average only one or two cyclists are killed in SF every year. Still wondering why the city hasn’t tried to do something helpful with the traffic lights like it’s done at Masonic and Fell. Why are motor vehicles and cyclists still sharing a green light there?

  • mikesonn

    “The land values in Hayes Valley would have boomed with or without the Central Freeway”

    Thank you for the Monday morning laugh.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    The tracks can and should go under (and under the Common Street crossing) with little trouble.

    There’s absolutely no need to tear down I280 to do this, as desirable as that is for other reasons.

    The bullshit depiction of a 16th road undercrossing is just the usual America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professional strawman “alternative” of limitless incompetence.  THrow billions at us or we shoot this kitten!

    Remember, these are the same people who brought you Transbay Terminal that can NEVER work for rail service because of limitless incompetence in both passenger circulation (see today’s new stories about BART’s problems getting people on and off platforms — it’s 10x worse at their Transbsy disaster) and huge problems in getting trains into and out of the station itself.

    Hey, but it’s got a park on the top!  Just ignore that other stuff.

    And the same cast of clowns want more money for more studies?

  • Anonymous

    Simply fact is, any intersection where a freeway touches down is going to be nasty. The only reason that Octavia/Market gets more attention than (say) 5th/King is because more people walk and bike through Octavia/Market. The only real solution to the problem of freeway touchdowns is not to bring freeways into the city at all.

    We can improve Octavia/Market by dismantling 101 back to the intersection with 280, creating a regular intersection at Octavia/Market and opening up the whole of Division St to redevelopment. The downside is that it would move the problem to the new touchdown, probably at Division/Potrero/Brannan.