East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

Update: The fight against the concrete 'freeway on stilts' bridge design promoted by MTC and Caltrans, which prevents trains, was lost in Oct. 2001. The next fight is to keep the old bridge from being torn down to reserve it for future rail transit. This steel bridge has undergone seismic retrofit. [Update: The bridge was demolished. There was no reason why they could not have kept it for bicyclists/pedestrians by only removing the upper deck, and saving the lower deck to also restore electric trains in the future.]

Why is a new bridge being built parallel to the old one if it is already seismically safe? Of course, Caltrans engineers love to design bridges. But the reason they gave is that in the event of a major earthquake, while the existing bridge is seismically safe, it may have to be shut down for a long period, thus interrupting traffic. Let transit take the risk! Keep this bridge for rail use. After the new bridge is built, remove the top deck from the existing bridge to decrease weight and make it less vulnerable. (During the 1989 earthquake, the top deck fell onto the bottom deck at one location.) Restore trains onto the lower deck in the future.

Here is an informative flyer that we had handed out at public meetings and sent to politicians:

Heavy Rail Trains used the Bay Bridge until 1958. The proposed concrete bridge design does not support trains, not even LRT.

The Bay Bridge must be 'future-ready' for trains, to the same weight capacity as the present bridge! Trains went as far as Chico. In the future, High Speed trains and regional trains are most likely to use the Bay Bridge.

Shown: 5-car Interurban Electric Railway #2 train arriving in San Francisco circa 1940.

This 5-car train is the "Dutton Ave. Express" to San Leandro. Express trains should augment BART since BART has always declined express service. Travel time is the main criteria for travel mode choice.

Shown: Transbay Terminal circa 1940 with Interurban Electric Railway #7 express train.

The Bay Bridge rail could save $900 million for High Speed Rail by bypassing the Peninsula. A CaHSRA study states travel time from San Jose to San Francisco via Peninsula is 28 minutes, San Jose to Oakland is 24 minutes. The Bay Bridge route was not studied, but would result in about the same time to San Francisco via Oakland. Bay Bridge rail gives a downtown terminus at Transbay vs. the current Caltrain station now proposed.

Graphics: CaHSRA.

Please wait for more pictures and drawings below.

The tracks carried more people than all the auto lanes COMBINED. Yet, the tracks used only 20% of the bridge area.

A 1947 California Department of Public Works report shows the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge configuration (1939-1958, right) with five peak direction lanes and two tracks. It states:

"Electric interurban railways have a greater capacity and offer safer and faster transportation (particularly during rush hours) than do other forms of transportation. Therefore, it is essential that the electric railways be retained on the present bridge."

Cross Section of Bridge from State Report

Configuration from the 1947 State Report (above) [enlarge] and possibility for the future (below) along with earthquake retrofitting.

Retaining the existing steel bridge with retrofitting is the best and least costly alternative. Tracks can be easily restored in the future. The number of peak direction lanes would remain unchanged at five lanes, as it always was even with trains. A bicycle path should be attached.

The tracks on the bridge had greater capacity than BART does today because the trains had six parallel tracks to go to for unloading/loading. There is room enough for high speed trains.

Shown: Transbay Terminal and Bay Bridge.

Train passengers helped pay for the bridge! The toll was 2.5 cents per passenger each way, included in the fare. This is equivalent to about 50 cents round trip today. It is a significant amount because it's per passenger (not per car).

The A-trains of the Key System (shown) went between San Francisco and San Leandro. The Oakland traffic engineering department wanted trains eliminated near Lake Merritt so the right of way of the trains could be used for more automobile lanes. In 1950, the "heavily used" A-line was severed. As a result of a hostile takeover in 1946 by General Motors Corp., the Key System transit company supported its own destruction.

Many more examples of how General Motors and traffic engineers decimated the train system is contained in the report Conflict of Transportation Competitors.


Background on the historical struggle to allow trains.

Ballot Measure for future Rail on the Bay Bridge Wins in all Four Cities


Email from Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco.

The Truth about Trains by Mayor Ken Bukowski of Emeryville.

Letter from Caltrans to Mayors rejecting the voters approval of allowing trains.

Letter from MTS to Governor Gray Davis, 3/17/99. This letter also sent to Caltrans.

Received letter from Caltrans rejecting trains which MTS responded to.

Letter from MTS handed-out to the MTC Commissioners requesting allowing trains.

MTC's SFOBB rail study is unacceptable.

MTC's SFOBB rail "study" rebutted by MTS.

SFOBB East Span problem definition: The wrong definition has unfortunate consequences.


Open Forum. Also has picture of the concrete design (not as strong or long-lasting as steel) pushed by Caltrans.

San Francisco Union Station: How to revitalize the Transbay Terminal area into a vibrant commercial project based around this major transportation hub.

MTC's Bay Bridge Design Task Force

MTC is the Metropolitan Transportation Commission which allocates money for highways and transit in the San Francisco Bay Area, but with a historic bias towards highways.

To make a flyer (8 1/2" x 14", double sided) to hand out, set your browser font to 12 point Times or Times Roman and print this in grey scale.

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