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Wiener asks Caltrans to examine removal of San Francisco's Central Freeway

PIX Now 09:39

SAN FRANCISCO – State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco has asked Caltrans to study the potential costs of removing the Central Freeway and enquired about the removal of two other freeways in the city.

In a letter to District 4 director Dina El-Tawansy, Wiener asked if the agency would be willing to conduct a study to evaluate the elevated roadway's future. The senator asked if the study would include an alternative that would demolish the freeway, which runs through the city's South of Market, for a surface boulevard.

The senator also asked if the agency has developed any plans to replace or rebuild the freeway, the road's remaining useful life and maintenance costs.

In a tweet, the senator said the freeway's removal "would be a huge benefit to San Francisco." 

Along with the Central Freeway, Wiener asked Caltrans similar questions about the Bayshore viaduct, a stretch of Highway 101 and Interstate 80 between 17th Street and the foot of the Bay Bridge, along with the Interstate 280 spur between Highway 101 and the city's Mission Bay neighborhood.

In his letter, Wiener cited pollution concerns from the freeways, along with the roads disproportionately impacting marginalized communities. The senator also mulled the potential of repurposing the land for other uses, including housing.

"Rebuilding these structures in place and/or widening the existing structures would perpetuate and intensify many of the previously outlined disastrous outcomes for the neighborhoods in which the viaducts currently exist," Wiener said.

"In other words, we should not be investing huge sums in these structures before we evaluate whether we should be retaining them in the first place," the senator went on to say.

Wiener's letter to the agency comes in the wake of the Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes $1 billion in grants aimed at reconnecting communities divided by transportation infrastructure, such as freeways.

Built in the 1950s, the Central Freeway was part of a comprehensive plan to build several freeways through the city, which was eventually halted after voters began to reject the growing urban freeway network. 

Originally stretching to Turk Street, the freeway was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, as was the Embarcadero Freeway, another double-deck roadway along the city's waterfront.

Following the quake, both the Embarcadero Freeway and the stretch of the Central Freeway north of Market Street were demolished. The removed portion of the Central Freeway was replaced by Octavia Boulevard, a project that included new housing and mixed-use development in a neighborhood partitioned by the freeway for decades. Meanwhile, the Embarcadero was transformed into a boulevard that reconnected the city to its historic waterfront and led to its revitalization.

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