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November Bay Area Part 4; Richmond-San Rafael Bridge/I-580

Given that I was heading to the Marin Headlands from Mount Diablo I didn't think it would be a good idea to try to slog through downtown San Francisco and have to pay two bridge tolls.  That being the case after finishing a route clinch of CA 24 I jumped on I-580 and headed to the northern end of San Francisco Bay to cross via the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.


The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is a double deck truss bridge spanning 5.5 miles with a maximum clearance of 185 feet.  The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge connects Richmond in Contra Costa County and San Rafael in Marin County.  Construction on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge started in 1953 and was completed by 1956. The 1956 and 1957 state highway maps reflect the completion of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on the northern end of San Francisco Bay.

1956 State Highway Map

1957 State Highway Map

Prior to 1959 the route leading to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was part of unsigned Legislative Route Number 69 between US 101 and US 40.  It wasn't until 1959 that California State Route 17 was extended over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to meet US 101.  The change from an unsigned highway to CA 17 can be seen on the 1958 and 1959 State Highway Map City inserts.

1958 State Highway Map Insert

1959 State Highway Map Insert

By 1984 I-580 had been extended over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge replacing CA 17.  The I-580 designation was one of many of what I consider to be questionable Interstate Designations in the Bay Area which replaced previous state highways with preexisting route continuity.

Currently the toll for crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is $5 dollars for two axle vehicles.  After the tollbooths the official name for the structure the "John F McCarthy Memorial Bridge" can be observed.


The double decker structure of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is pretty striking.  It appears that the shoulder in theory could be utilized in the future for an additional lane if the need ever arose.  The  bridge is obviously exempt from Interstate Standards given there is not a shoulder on both sides of the roadway.






There is a decent overlook of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in Marin County at San Quentin Point.  Interesting to consider that one of the most infamous California State Prisons is literally within walking distance of the overlook.


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