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The Interstate 380 controversy
April 14, 2014, 05:00 AM By Darold Fredricks

Darold Fredricks’ collection.
The “unadopt” action allowed the public to enjoy the beauty of the hills to the west without seeing a ugly eight- to 10-lane highway to Pacifica (San Francisco County Jail is the white building at top right).

The Junipero Serra Highway was planned in the 1920s to relieve the congestion on El Camino Real. It was built to Hickey Boulevard by the late 1920s but was not completed to Crystal Springs Road in San Bruno until the 1950s. Opposition to its construction through Millbrae and Burlingame forced a realignment west to Skyline Boulevard in San Bruno in the 1960s when the federal government began the multi-laned, modern Interstate Highways project that was to run from coast to coast.

The interstate system offered a great opportunity to communities across the United States to relieve congestion and speed up the flow of traffic across the nation. In the wide-open spaces of the Midwest, the roads around communities could be planned and rerouted through open fields. The established communities of the Bay area presented a far different situation due to almost maxed out developments of the cities. For the interstate roads to be constructed down the Peninsula, existing structures and roads had to be moved or torn up.

In San Bruno and South San Francisco, parts of the existing Junipero Serra were needed to complete the interstate concept. The city of Pacifica presented a unique situation. Highway 1 serviced the citizens with only a two-lane road going east-west to get over the coast range and into the city. Many of the citizens of Pacifica worked “over the hill” on the Peninsula and needed to commute to their jobs over these two roads. The U.S. government’s solution was to build an interstate route, over the hills, east-west from Highway 101 to Highway 1 on the coast. What was needed was to build the most expensive interchange at that time to accomplish this task. The section from 101 to Junipero Serra was on flat terrain and through as yet undeveloped Bayhill property in San Bruno. From Interstate 280 (Junipero Serra Boulevard) the road would enter Crestmoor Canyon and proceed west to Skyline Boulevard in the San Bruno Avenue area then the eight- to 10-lane highway would proceed west through the northern part of the San Francisco Watershed, south of Portola Highlands housing addition and the San Francisco County Jail, climb Sweeney Ridge, then go over the hills into Pacifica. 

The public was outraged. The pristine watershed would be violated with gas-belching cars and smoke diesel 16-wheelers. No way would they allow this to happen.

The first house on Seventh Avenue in San Bruno had been razed in 1968 and 77 acres of land was acquired in Crestmoor Canyon. At the Skyline Boulevard/San Bruno Avenue intersection, a 30- to 40-foot exit overhead was planned. This is where the San Andreas Fault crosses Skyline Boulevard from the watershed and parallels Skyline Boulevard along western Crestmoor and Rollingwood additions. Opposition to this project increased in both San Bruno and Pacifica when this fact became known and understood.

In May 1970, bids for $4,500,000 were let for the construction of Interstate 380. In 1970, the north part of Northbrae School property was being cleared for the road (To the north is the Shops at Tanforan).

On April 22, 1971, a disaster occurred. In the afternoon, the Interstate 380 railroad overpass was being readied for cement when it collapsed. More than 720 tons of steel and reinforced concrete fell onto the S.P. tracks minutes before the train down the Peninsula was scheduled to pass by. Five men were injured. It took many hours before the trains were able to travel over this section of the tracks.

In February 1972, widening of the Sharp Park Road to Pacifica was completed and the opposition to the extension of the Interstate 380 road wanted the powers that be to wait until it was known if this widening of Sharp Park Road would relieve the traffic woes. The government began reviewing the difficulties of the extension of Interstate 380.

On Aug. 17, 1974, more than 600 people voiced their opposition to the road at a meeting at Skyline College and, on Sept. 22, 1974, the issue was proposed to go to a vote of the people. On Oct. 4, 1975, Caltrans recommended that the Interstate 380 extension be eliminated. By the end of February 1976, the “Portola Highway” (Interstate 380) opened from Interstate 280 to Highway 101. Opposition mounted and by June 1976, proceedings to “unadopt” Interstate 380 over the hills occurred, thus ending a bitter fight with the government and reasserting home rule by the citizens. 

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

 

 

 

Tags: interstate, bruno, boulevard, skyline, highway, opposition,


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