The Embarcadero in the City of San Francisco is a historic waterfront road corridor along San Francisco Bay. Most likely know of the Embarcadero from the former double deck Embarcadero Freeway which once served as Interstate 480 and later California State Route 480. The Embarcadero Freeway was completed from Interstate 80 to Broadway by 1959 and generally came to be seen as a blight on the San Francisco Bay waterfront. The demise of Embarcadero Freeway' would eventually come largely at the hand of the Loma Prieta Earthquake which rendered it unstable. The Embarcadero Freeway was part of a larger plan to connect a fully limited access freeway through San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge. California Division of Highways plans would have seen Interstate 480 continue from the end of the Embarcadero Freeway to the Golden Gate Bridge as the so-called Golden Gate Freeway. In this blog we will examine the history of the Embarcadero, Embarcadero Freeway and planned Golden Gate Freeway. Featured as the blog cover photo is the Embarcadero Freeway facing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in early 1959 shortly before it was extended to Broadway.
Part 1; the history of the Embarcadero, Embarcadero Freeway and Golden Gate Freeway
The Embarcadero is a waterfront roadway which is plotted along San Francisco Bay in downtown San Francisco. The Embarcadero directly translated from Spanish into English means "Place to Embark" and is lined with waterfront piers. The Embarcadero stretches from King Street north/northwest around San Francisco Bay to Pier 45 near Jefferson Street.
Much of the Embarcadero was constructed along a sea wall which was plotted in the 1860s but was not completed until the 1920s. The 1857 Coast Guard Survey Map of San Francisco shows the original shoreline between Telegraph Hill and Rincon Point. Yerba Buena Cove is shown as already partially filled.
North of US Route 101 access to Oracle Park and a California Welcome Center is signed from Interstate 280 Exit 56 at Mariposa Street.
Interstate 280 north traffic to King Street and the Embarcadero is directed to use the two most left lanes approaching the freeway terminus.
As noted in Part 1, Interstate 280 was completed to 3rd Street in 1973. The freeway structure to 3rd Street was an elevated span which essentially was never used given the connection to the Embarcadero Freeway was not constructed. Traffic on Interstate 280 would subsequently empty onto Sixth Street and Brannan Street. After the Loma Prieta Earthquake and demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway the alignment Interstate 280 was reconfigured to empty onto King Street. The transition from the northern terminus of Interstate 280 onto King Street was completed by 1997.
Interstate 80 and US Route 101 bound traffic along King Street is directed to take 3rd Street in front of Oracle Park. King Street transitions to the Embarcadero east of Oracle Park.
Approaching Pier 40 Embarcadero traffic is advised of how many garage spaces are open ahead on a Variable Message Sign.
Approaching Townsend Street, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge comes into view.
North of Townsend Street the Embarcadero is adorned with 49 Mile Scenic Drive shields approaching the Bay Bridge. 49 Mile Scenic Drive is an auto-tour route of San Francisco which was created in 1938. 49 Mile Scenic Drive was created by the San Francisco Downtown Association to showcase the most scenic parts of the city during the Golden Gate International Exposition. Various realignments over the years have reduced the route to 46.3 miles.
The Embarcadero passes under the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge between Bryant Street and Harrison Street.
Rincon Park is located at Embarcadero and Folsom Street.
Approaching Howard Street, the Ferry Terminal Building can be seen looking north on the Embarcadero. Howard Street is where the double decker Embarcadero Freeway would have once appeared overhead.
Yerba Buena Island and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge can be seen from Embarcadero and Howard Street.
At Mission Street the Ferry Terminal Building comes into full view looking north on the Embarcadero.
Approaching Market Street, the clock tower of the Ferry Terminal Building is easy to observe.
The Embarcadero Freeway as completed would have terminated north of the Ferry Terminal Building at Broadway.
At Pier 27 the Embarcadero intersects Battery Street and Lombard Street.
Traffic to the Golden Gate Bridge is directed to exit Embarcadero onto Bay Street. Many of the Alternative F corridors presented by the Division of Highways would have largely followed Bay Street.
At Pier 39 the Embarcadero enters the Fisherman's Wharf District. Pier 39 is located at the corner of Embarcadero and Jefferson Street. Traffic headed to Jefferson Street is directed to stay on the Embarcadero.
At Powell Street the Embarcadero takes a somewhat obtuse right hand turn towards it's terminus at Pier 45. From North Point Alcatraz Island can be seen in the waters of San Francisco Bay.