San Francisco has a history of tearing down freeways. In the 1990s, both the Embarcadero Freeway and the Central Freeway were torn down after being damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Now, Mayor Ed Lee’s office is floating a new plan to raze the tail end of Interstate 280 as a way to make the surrounding neighborhood more walkable and livable, and to spur development. But the plan would mean moving an important Caltrain railyard, and critics worry about how surface streets will handle the increased traffic.

Jayme Ackemann, communications manager for Caltrain
John Rahaim, director of planning for the City and County of San Francisco

  • colinvgallagher

    As a Mission Bay resident I feel very strongly that taking down the Highway 280 offramps would be a bad idea for pedestrian safety in the neighborhood. It is simply not possible to divert the commuter traffic between San Francisco and the South Bay that usually travels along Highway 280 onto surface roads without an increase in accidents. Is it really worth having a greater number of fatalities and catastrophic injuries just so that San Francisco’s officials can have more property tax revenues from the condominium buildings to be built in place of the 280 offramps?

    • leftbrain99

      1. Just curious – how do you know it’s not possible, or are you just speculating?
      2. I think you should consider that when people lose the option of the freeway, it will not be a 1:1 ratio of people that chose the surface roads in that same area. They will likely divert to other freeway options (commuters between east bay and south bay / peninsula will take different routes, and many others will chose mass public transportation.

    • I posted some about this above, but I don’t think all of the traffic you’re seeing is SF resident traffic.

      I’m guessing most of it based on where I see the cars coming from are not from SF, but from the east bay.

      Getting rid of the option for east bay people using SOMA+280 as a 101 bypass is a very good thing.

  • Tez Anderson

    I live on Fell St. I see how tearing down the Fell St Exit off 101 has been good for the neighborhood. Well, at least prettier. However the traffic coming off a major highway and into a local neighborhood has created a race track down Fell St. You take your life into your hands if you cross at Octavia and Fell. This is one of those city planning disasters that Lee and his ilk are going to make worse. Leave it alone. I love driving over that exit ramp. It shows off the city beautifully. Try repairing the roads South of Market before you tear down a newish perfectly paved wide highway.

  • catsynth

    I live near I-280 in SOMA and rely on it when I need to head southward from the city. I also find the stretch of freeway quite aesthetic for my photography, not an “eyesore” at all. This section of the city has an industrial feel to it even as it changes economically, it would be nice to preserve that.

    • I walk/bike at 4/K and would love to have the 280 on/off-ramp removed so that I don’t have to worry about speeding motorist without a care for the thousands of pedestrians because highway…

      • Similar, I live near 5th and Brannan. Many many evenings I see a huge line of cars that get off 280 at 6th and Brannan, turn left at 5th, and then get on 80 to go over the bridge to the east bay. Because this is basically people who are trying to game the line going over the bridge, they tend to be the less patient type. A dangerous combination on local city streets that is slowly being rebuilt as a residential area.

        I’d love to see the I-280 removed, even if affects my convenience getting out of SOMA toward the south bay.

  • mike

    It is crazy that 280 does not connect to 80, that whole area is gridlocked,city traffic is dangerous and pollutes and wastes countless hours, face reality,…………people need to cross the bridge. City streets are not a solution.

  • Meghan

    Cities all over the country that have chosen to tear down freeways have never looked back. I think this idea is a fantastic step toward prioritizing the people who inhabit the city outside of highway driving. It improves access for all kinds of people, instead of focusing on throughput, which is the main function of highways.

    • Another Mike

      San Francisco is the hub of a huge transportation network, not a gated community. People have been driving through the city to go north and south since the Depression.

      Next, Mayor Lee will notice a giant bridge dumping traffic into his preferred neighborhood. Will he plan to reroute traffic at Treasure Island?

      • This comment makes no sense. 280 does not connect to the bridge. Here: maps.google.com

        • Another Mike

          If Mayor Lee wants to tear down the I-280 eyesore (to convert into condos), what will keep him from tearing down the I-80 eyesore?

          • Sam Bowman

            Is there anything wrong with converting public amenities to condos right now? As long as the result isn’t a huge public nuisance (It won’t be, see Octavia St now), the city desperately needs housing. It’s one of the most expensive places in the country to live, and the number of housing units added in the last decade is close to zero. More housing means more people get to stay here.

          • Another Mike

            Studio apartments in new buildings in that neighborhood rent for $2000 a month. More housing == more techies. More googlebuses and more applebuses prowling the streets. Is that what you want?

  • Guest

    Without a freeway, traveling to Marin county is a nightmare now. Tearing down 280 will create an even bigger mess for those trying to reach east bay through San Francisco. San Francisco must be mindful of the needs of neighboring towns. For those against cars, if our public transportation was fast, efficient
    and well connected, no one would be using these roads anyway. They should get an efficient public transportation in place first.

    • Matt Laroche

      280 isn’t the highway that goes to the bay bridge.

      Perhaps your argument is that more people will be on 101 and 80, and that those people will make traffic heavier before the bay bridge?

    • Part of the whole point of tearing down 280 is to make it simpler to make our public transportation faster and more efficient, or did you miss that memo?
      And frankly, SF is not there to be a place for you to drive through.

      • Guest

        SF is a hub city with many businesses in and around. Not everyone can live there. Often we have no choice other than driving to/through the city. We don’t enjoy driving through the city either. Otherwise SF should stop issuing business permits so we can stop bothering you. As far as public transportation getting efficient, I will believe it when I see it.

        • Part of the problem is that the rest of the Bay Area wants to be suburban car-dependent utopias but then get upset when they want to drive into a dense walkable city and have cheap/free parking and unclogged roads.

          Centralized jobs, businesses, entertainment and eating all play a part in what makes SF attractive. Your highways and parking requirements only serve as a detriment to that.

      • Another Mike

        SF is not to be driven through? Have you ever looked at a map of Northern and Central California? Read about the Gold Rush? Sailed out the Golden Gate?

  • Another Mike

    Don’t we have enough car-pedestrian collisions and car-cyclist collisions in SoMa, without adding to the number of cars on surface streets? Freeways keep cars away from peds and cyclists.

    • Freeways dump cars onto surface roads of SoMa with drivers that are still in a “highway” mindset (speeding, etc). Remove the freeways and you’ll have less traffic in SoMa (or hopefully more calmed traffic). I hope this also leads to more 2-waying of streets and traffic calming measures.

      • Gary

        Is there less traffic on Octavia and nearby streets since that freeway was removed? No – if anything, there is more on the surface street with people trying to game the area to get on or off the freeway and avoid the backups.

  • alisonguan

    Save the money for the feasibility report! It’s a terrible idea!!!

  • i_witness

    the Caltrain person commented that this is an operational consideration. but these decisions over time impacted communities of color and low income

  • Peter K

    If you built a tunnel from 101 at Candlestick that connected directly to the BB, then you would eliminate a huge amount of traffic through the city and then you could take down I-280 stub.
    Extend that tunnel to the GG bridge, and all of a suddent SF traffic would improve 1000% and we would have a much more livable city.

  • Peter K

    The idea that because electrification would allow more service that more people would take caltrain is patently false exactly because so many people can not practically get to their workplace from a caltrain station.

    • Matt Laroche

      Electrification would enable Caltrain to tunnel, in the Downtown Extension, to the Transbay Terminal. The Transbay Terminal is closer to more jobs.

      Also, electrification will enable more frequent, less expensive, and more dynamic service (different train length), which draws people to the system.

    • Another Mike

      The problem is getting TO Fourth and King. There are plenty of corporate bus shuttles serving Caltrain stations in Santa Clara County.

  • Gary

    Most stupid idea I’ve heard in a long time! This is a perfect freeway connection that ends before the most urban area, empties well into surface streets that access balparks, SOMA and downtown. I already have clients who don’t want to meet in SF, because it is too expensive, difficult and hard to think about how to get in to town, park and pay. I use 280 for downtown and SOMA shopping. Sorry, but public transport isn’t an option for most routes and uses. Guess we’ll just shop peninsula more.and more. SF will lose more jobs and tax revenue. Amazing!

    • Nobody goes to SF anymore – it’s too damn crowded.

    • “I use 280 for downtown and SoMa shopping. Sorry, but public transport isn;t an option for most routes and uses.” This area is the best public transit served area in the entire region!

      • Another Mike

        Then why do so many residents own cars, as evidenced by the ubiquitous zone stickers?
        In fact, cars that SF residents store at the curb force visitors to double-park to drop off goods or passengers, eliminating traffic lanes, and making Muni buses even slower than in years past.

        • You are advocating for better parking management and increased metering hours. I support you there!

          • Gary

            Nope – I need my car to shop for groceries for my family. Hipster singles can shop at Whole Paycheck with a backpack. I have to stock up at Costco and Trader Joe’s. I have to visit clients and be on time for meetings. With the 2 hours I save every day not takeing MUNI, I create jobs for others by starting and helping companies and non-profits, and I save lives in the healthcare industry. Should I save one less life today so I have extra time to deal with MUNI? I don’t want to make that trade-off.
            I pay for my car myself and pay for roads with many, many taxes. I also pay for others to ride MUNI, and not sure bicyclists pay for anything or are even insured. Before raising taxes and fees again on car owners, how about requiring all bicyclists to insure and pay for infrastructure and setting MUNI prices at true cost adjusted by income level?

      • Gary

        You make my point exactly. That area is well served by public transport, yet I can not use it even for the most simple purposes. It doesn’t go where I need to when I need to, and it isn’t reliable. I would lose all my clients if I used public transport for business, and I wouldn’t get my shopping back home in one piece or one trip if I used it to shop SOMA. Sure, go ahead and lock cars out. Keep raising taxes and fees. The middle class is already being priced out of the city, and I for one am not happy to see SF only for the rich and the poor. People who build jobs and shop won’t use SF. I founded companies employing hundereds here in SF, and am happy to contribute to the tax base, This is becoming so difficult now. Chase people who bring jobs and pay taxes out – then see where you can raise tax money to pay for city services and MUNI. Ridiculous!

  • sfparkripoff

    The developers who are pushing this don’t care about the economic vitality of the city, they just want to sell condo’s. Hundreds of Thousands of commuters depend on 280 to get to enter, and exit the Financial District. All of these people are not going to start taking public transit. If this highway is torn down businesses all across San Francisco will suffer.

    The city and county of San Francisco are deficit spending to maintain city services. The state of California is deficit spending to maintain state services. It makes no sense to tear down a perfectly good highway so that the 1% can build million dollar condos.

  • I am not a resident of San Francisco, but I am there regularly for both business and personal reasons. It has been years since I have driven into San Francisco. I use Caltrain and BART, and my bicycle. I am in favor of anything that makes San Francisco more livable and more economically successful, and that includes the removal of freeways. I would like all the opponents to get out of their cars, and the worldview that cars induce. If freeway travel is less convenient, people will choose to travel, live and work in different ways, and I think that is good for San Francisco.

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