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Interstate 280 and the Doran Bridge
November 18, 2013, 05:00 AM By Darold Fredricks

Photo courtesy of the San Mateo County History Museum
The impressive Doran Bridge of Interstate 280 being built over San Mateo Creek.

The Federal Aid Act of 1956 authorized President Dwight D. Eisenhower to start building the most up-to-date and impressive road system in the United States. Eisenhower had just finished a war in Europe where he found out firsthand that a country like Germany had roads superior to any other country. Their roads reached all parts of the nation and, because of this, they could deliver supplies in incredibly rapid time. This type of transportation system is what allowed the North to send troops at top speed to Pennsylvania and succeeded in many battles against the South. This, of course, was the railroad system that the North had and the South didn’t. Eisenhower saw the same principle at work here. We needed a better transportation system to protect ourselves and move commodities faster.

The road system we had in the 1950s had grown by hodge-podge. On the Peninsula, El Camino Real began being used in the 1770s and wasn’t hardly improved upon for decades. Bridges were temporary and the roads themselves were impassable in the winter due to lack of a good surface. Few roads connected the eastern parts of the Peninsula to the western parts. Eventually, in the 1920s, the Junipero Serra Boulevard was started but it never was completed to San Jose as originally planned. Skyline Boulevard was completed section by section in the ’20s and wasn’t completed until the ’60s. The only good east-west roads that existed were Highway 1, Sharp Park Boulevard, Crystal Springs Road (in San Bruno) and Half Moon Bay Road. Driving from San Francisco to San Jose was almost an adventure and driving to Half Moon Bay was a trek.

Eisenhower wanted to change this. The two-lane highways from east to west had to be widened to at least four lanes with shoulders on them. The days of driving across country in a car and getting stuck behind a slow-moving truck or a harvesting combine had to become history. The old highways traveled from town to congested town centers had to be changed and the new interstates were planned to go around towns thus saving much time and money for truckers and cars.    

On the Peninsula, the new interstate was to be parallel to highways 1 and 101 where possible and hope that San Francisco would cooperate and let the road go through the city. That answer was no. San Francisco is one of the few cities that has no north-south interstate. In San Mateo County, part of the existing Junipero Serra Boulevard had to be torn out so the interstate could get through Daly City, South San Francisco and San Bruno. Because of the existing opposition to completing the Junipero Serra Boulevard, it was decided to travel to the west through Crestmoor in San Bruno, then use parts of existing Skyline Boulevard as it progressed south through the San Francisco Watershed and Cañada Road. San Francisco said no to this and opted for the interstate to go around its wildlife preserve. San Francisco won and delayed the connection through to Woodside by many months.

Another big obstacle that had to be overcome was the existence of the deep San Mateo Creek bed that had the Crystal Springs Dam just below the area the road was to cross the creek. After the engineers figured things out, it was achieved with the design and construction of an impressive bridge completed in 1969.

It was decided the bridge should honor a prominent policeman, Eugene A. Doran, who was killed by a man, Alexander Robillard XIV, who was wanted for a burglary he had committed. Doran had stopped Robillard in the area of Bunker Hill Road and Skyline Boulevard. After fleeing the scene, Robillard was later captured in Salt Lake City and executed for this crime. Doran left two sons and a pregnant wife to wonder why this senseless murder had to happen. The bridge was named the Eugene A. Doran Memorial Bridge. Eugene’s son, Lance Cpl. Patrick M. Doran, was killed in Vietnam Feb. 18, 1967. In August 2004, the Senate redesignated the bridge in memory of his son as the Officer Eugene and Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick M. Doran Memorial Bridge.

Rediscovering the Peninsula by Darold Fredricks appears in the Monday edition of the Daily Journal.



Tags: boulevard, francisco, doran, bridge, roads, south,

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