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The Doyle Drive Historic Corridor

Doyle Drive Low Viaduct<< back

Aerial view of the Low Viaduct under construction, 1934.

Aerial view of the Low Viaduct under construction, 1934. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

DOYLE DRIVE’S LOW VIADUCT stretches 3,308 feet from the battery bluff north of the San Francisco National Cemetery to the east (Marina District) edge of the Presidio. The Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District (GGB&HD) built the Low Viaduct as part of the original Golden Gate Bridge project between 1934 and 1937. It conformed to the Army’s stipulation that the bridge’s approach roads have no at-grade crossings with Presidio roads so that communication within the military reservation would not be affected. Military officials also required the GGB&HD to undertake extensive relocation, reconstruction, and new construction of utilities and buildings as compensation for Presidio facilities demolished or otherwise affected by the construction of the Low Viaduct.


FEARING TRAFFIC JAMS, in 1932 Marina District residents protested the GGB&HD’s plan to build a single Doyle Drive ramp connection with Marina Boulevard. In response, the City and County of San Francisco pressured the GGB&HD to instead connect Doyle Drive with Lombard Street/Highway 101. GGB&HD Chief Engineer Joseph B. Strauss initially resisted the City’s demand. Soon, however, Strauss began promoting a plan to connect Doyle Drive both to Lombard Street and to Beach Street. Although construction of the Low Viaduct began in 1934, the controversy over Doyle Drive’s street connections in the Marina District lasted for several years.

The Low Viaduct nearing completion and workers making improvements to the Presidio, 1936.

The Low Viaduct nearing completion and workers making improvements to the Presidio, 1936. Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, San Francisco, California

IN EARLY 1936, amid growing public controversy, GGB&HD Director A. R. O’Brien warned of the “tremendous loss that will accrue to the taxpayers if these outlets are not ready when the bridge opens.” The GGB&HD and the City and County of San Francisco finally reached a compromise. The GGB&HD would build its originally planned Doyle Drive ramp linking the Low Viaduct with Marina Boulevard but trucks and busses would be prohibited from accessing Doyle Drive from Marina Boulevard. The city would take the lead in constructing Richardson Avenue and its ramps, including viaduct segments, between Lombard Street and Doyle Drive as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The Low Viaduct, the Marina Boulevard ramp, Richardson Avenue, and the off-ramp from Doyle Drive to Richardson Avenue were all completed by the time the Golden Gate Bridge opened to traffic in May 1937. The on-ramp from Richardson Avenue to Doyle Drive was completed in January 1938.

1932 illustration of Strauss’s Beach Street plan. ca. 1932 illustration of Strauss’s Beach Street plan for a grand boulevard that would have carried Doyle Drive traffic through part of the Marina District and featured the Palace of Fine Arts. Strauss commissioned Bay Area artist Chesley Bonesstell to produce this rendering of his Beach Street plan, which the City rejected. Courtesy of Water Resources Center Archives, University of California, Berkeley
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