District 4 History Timeline


Caltrans District 4: Timeline of Events

Key to color codes:

Construction projects are printed in black.

Administrative and legislative events are printed in red.

Other events are printed in blue


1895 The Bureau of Highways is created by the State Legislature. Three newly appointed officials, Marsden Manson of San Francisco, R. C. Irvine of Sacramento, and J. L. Maude of Riverside, purchase a buckboard and visit each county in 1895-1897 to form recommendations for a state highway system.

The Bureau of Highways becomes the Department of Highways in 1897 and the Department of Engineering in 1907. It is later renamed as the Department of Highways and then the Division of Highways.

1909 The first State Highway Bond Act, for $18 million, is passed to establish a state highway system. Subsequent bond acts are passed for $15 million (in 1916) and $40 million (1919).

1911 The Department of Engineering is divided into seven geographical divisions. Division 4 includes the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz.

1912 Arthur E. Loder is appointed the first Division Engineer for Division 4. The Division opens its first office in the Rialto Building at the southwest corner of Mission and New Montgomery streets in San Francisco.

With funds from the State Highway Bond Act of 1909, construction begins on California State Highway Contract No. 1: paving a segment of El Camino Real in Burlingame and South San Francisco, San Mateo County. The highway then becomes an important commuter route for motorists traveling to San Francisco. The highway was eventually designated U. S. 101.

Work begins on the Redwood Highway (now US 101) in Sonoma County. Grading will be complete between Sausalito and Eureka by 1920, and paving will be complete by 1930.

1916 William Lewis Clark becomes Division Engineer for Division 4.

1920 The Highway Commission recommends a fuel tax to be used solely for highway construction. A two-cent-per-gallon tax is approved in 1923, and it is increased to three cents in 1927.

The Division offices are moved to the Flood Building, at Market and Powell streets in San Francisco.

1921 The Department of Public Works is created, and includes the Division of Highways.

John H. Skeggs becomes the District Engineer. He will retain the post for 31 years.

1923 District 4 offices move to the State Building in San Francisco’s Civic Center.

1924 Construction commences on the Bayshore Highway, from San Jose to San Francisco, to relieve congestion on El Camino Real. The highway is dedicated in 1929.

1925 Posey Tube is commenced, to be completed in 1928.

1926 Antioch Bridge, on today’s State Route 160 (near State Route 4), opens, connecting Contra Costa and Sacramento counties. The bridge was privately built.

The U. S. Highway numbering system is created. Auto clubs take on the responsibility of making and placing route signs.

1927 The first Dumbarton Bridge, on today’s State route 84, opens. It spans San Francisco Bay between San Mateo and Alameda counties. The bridge was privately built.

The first Carquinez Bridge, on today’s Interstate 80, opens. It spans the Carquinez Strait between Contra Costa and Solano counties. The bridge was privately built.

1929 The state legislature creates the California Toll Bridge Authority. This agency operates separately from the Division of Highways and is authorized to acquire toll bridges on state highways. The projected San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the major impetus for the creation of this agency.

1933 Willow Pass Road, now State Route 4 in Contra Costa County, becomes a state highway. It had been a county road since 1853. This highway served industrial traffic to and from Port Chicago, Pittsburg, and Antioch in the 1930s-1940s, especially during World War II. It became known as the Arnold Industrial Highway and John Muir Parkway

1934 The state highway code is realigned to allow the state highway department to build state highways in cities, and gas tax revenues are reapportioned to allow the construction of urban highways.

The Broadway Low Level Tunnel (now known as the Caldecott Tunnel) is begun by Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Upon its completion in 1937 the maintenance and operation will be assumed by the Division of Highways.

1936 The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, on today’s Interstate 80, is opened to traffic on November 12th. It crosses San Francisco Bay between San Francisco and Alameda counties. Key System trains begin service across this bridge in 1938.

1937 The Golden Gate Bridge, on today’s U. S. 101, opens to traffic. It crosses the Golden Gate between San Francisco and Marin counties.

The Eastshore Highway, from the Bay Bridge north to El Cerrito, is begun. It will be completed two years later.

1939 The "Freeway Law," sponsored by state senator Arthur H. Breed, Jr., is passed by the state legislature. This act allows the construction of highways along which adjacent property owners do not have rights of access, and gives the state broad powers of land acquisition for the construction of freeways. It also requires the state to reach an agreement with local governments before streets can be closed for the construction of a freeway. This clause gives cities and counties considerable leverage regarding freeway design and location.

1940 Park-Presidio Boulevard is built through the Presidio of San Francisco as an approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. This structure possesses all the attributes of a freeway and is the first such thoroughfare in northern California.

The state purchases the Carquinez and Antioch bridges from private parties.

District 4 offices move to 2001 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.

1945 In December, construction begins on the Bayshore Freeway, between San Francisco and San Jose. This freeway is completed in 1962.

1946 In January the Redwood Highway (U. S. 101) in Marin and Sonoma counties is widened as a limited access, four-lane expressway, with the ultimate intention of bringing it up to freeway standards. By 1975 most of the expressway is so improved.

In June, construction begins on the Eastshore Freeway, between Oakland and San Jose. This freeway is completed in 1960. (It is now known as the Nimitz Freeway, Interstate 880.)

Work commences on the widening of the Arnold Industrial Highway (State Route 4 in Contra Costa County) as an expressway, with the intention of ultimately improving it to freeway standards. This was accomplished during 1960-1980s with the construction of grade separation structures.

1947 Collier-Burns Act is passed by the state legislature. It raised the fuel tax to 4.5 cents per gallon and raises vehicle license fees. It also directs these revenues toward construction of freeways in urban areas and highways in rural areas of the state. Gasoline fees are increased in 1953, 1963, 1983, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1994, to an ultimate tax of eighteen cents per gallon.

The Harland Bartholomew and Associates report is completed for the City of Oakland. It recommends a network of freeways and expressways for the East Bay, much of which was ultimately constructed.

The Division of Highways assumes responsibility for posting route signs in the state.

1948 The De Leuw, Cather and Co. plan for San Francisco is completed. It recommends a system of freeways, expressways, and parkways in that city. This plan was reconceptualized in 1951 and 1955 as the Trafficways Plan, parts of which were eventually built.

Work commences on the improvement of Highway 50 (now Interstate 580) between Castro Valley and Livermore as an expressway. This work is complete by 1957. During the 1960s-1980s this expressway is gradually rebuilt as a freeway.

1950 Mountain Boulevard (now the Warren Freeway), State Route 13 in Berkeley and Oakland, is begun. It will be completed in1966.

District 4 offices move to the new Division of Highways building at 150 Oak Street in San Francisco.

1951 The state purchases the San Mateo-Hayward and Dumbarton bridges from private parties.

1952 Barney W. Booker succeeds John H. Skeggs as District Engineer.

1953 The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is begun, to be completed in 1956. The Interstate 580 connection between this bridge and U.S. 101 will be built during 1956-1959.

1954 The Eastshore Freeway, from the Bay Bridge north to the Carquinez Bridge, is begun. It replaces the Eastshore Highway of the 1930s. Today it is known as the Kent D. Pursel Memorial Freeway, Interstate 80.

The Central Freeway in San Francisco is begun. The following year the Embarcadero Freeway in the same city is begun. Both freeways will be completed in 1959.

1955 Interstate 680, from the Benicia-Martinez Bridge to San Jose, is begun. The bridge was completed in 1962. The 57-mile freeway will be completed in 1974.

1956 The Federal Aid Highway Act is passed by Congress and signed by President Eisenhower. It devotes federal funds towards the creation of a nationwide Interstate Highway system.

The Freeway Revolt in San Francisco begins. This movement will last a decade and prevent several freeways in that city – including links between the Golden Gate and Bay bridges -- from being constructed.

The second Carquinez Bridge is begun on an alignment parallel to the first. It will be completed in 1958.

1957 Interstate 80 between the Carquinez Bridge and Fairfield is begun. This freeway will be completed by 1965.

1958 The Southern Freeway (now the Interstate 280, the John F. Foran Freeway) in San Francisco is begun. Along with the Junipero Serra Freeway it will stretch 55 miles from San Francisco to San Jose and be completed in 1973.

1959 The Webster Street Tube, beneath the estuary between Oakland and Alameda, is begun. It will be completed in 1963.

Joseph P. Sinclair becomes District Engineer.

1960 The MacArthur Freeway (now Interstate 580), between Oakland and Castro Valley, is begun. It will be completed in 1966.

The Benicia-Martinez Bridge is begun, to be completed two years later.

1963 The second San Mateo-Hayward bridge is begun, replacing the first. It will be completed in 1967.

The Division of Highways hires architect Mario Ciampi to design aesthetic freeway structures for many bridges on Interstate 280, in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The most dramatic of these will be the Eugene Doran Bridge over San Mateo Creek, completed in 1967.

1964 Reconstruction of Interstate 580, from Castro Valley to Livermore, as a freeway is commenced. Lawsuits will stall the completion of this work until 1985. It is now known as the Arthur H. Breed, Jr. Freeway.

The third bore of the Caldecott Tunnel is opened.

Construction of the Grove-Shafter Freeway (now the John B. Williams and William Byron Rumford freeways, Interstate 980 and State Route 24) through Oakland is commenced. A lawsuit will delay the completion of this six-mile freeway until 1985.

Alan S. Hart moves from District 3 to become the District Engineer for District 4.

1969 The National Environmental Protection Act passed by Congress. The Community and Environmental Factors Unit (CEFU) is established in the District.

1970 The California Environmental Quality Act passed by the California State Legislature.

Thomas R. Lammers becomes District Director.

  1. Assembly Bill 69 consolidates the Department of Public Works and Aeronautics into the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) with six divisions: Transportation Planning, Highways, Mass Transportation, Aeronautics, Administrative Services and Legal.

1973 Planners and engineers are consolidated under Robert Jahrling as the first Environmental Planning Branch in the District.

1974 Proposition 5 passes, shifting highway dollars to public transportation.

1978 California Transportation Commission is formed to replace California Highway Commission, State Transportation Board, Aeronautics Board and California Toll Bridge Authority.

The New Antioch Bridge is opened in December.

1980 John West becomes District Director.

1982 Burch Bachtold becomes District Director.

1984 The second Dumbarton Bridge is completed, replacing the first.

mid-1980s District 4 administrative offices (Traffic Operations, Design, and Drafting) move to 3333 California Street in San Francisco. Other offices (including Planning, Personnel and Accounting) remain at 150 Oak Street and at other locations.

1987 The John T. Knox Freeway, Interstate 580, is begun. It will link the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge with Interstate 80 and be completed in 1991.

1989 The Loma Prieta Earthquake destroys the Cypress portion of the Nimitz Freeway, with great loss of life; and damages the Bay Bridge, the Embarcadero Freeway, Route 280, and the Central Freeway. This earthquake will stimulate an enormous amount of seismic retrofit work in the 1990s and later.

1990 West Valley Freeway, State Route 85 in San Jose, is begun. It will be completed in 1994, bringing the total freeway mileage in the nine Bay Area counties to about 590 miles.

Preston Kelly becomes District Director.

1991 The Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco is demolished.

1992 District 4 offices move to 111 Grand Avenue in Oakland.

1993 Joe Browne becomes District Director.

1996 Voters approve Proposition 192, the Seismic Retrofit Bond Act, providing $2 billion in bonds to strengthen bridges to better withstand earthquakes.

Harry Yahata becomes District Director.

1997 District 4 boundaries are changed to add Solano County and transfer Santa Cruz County to District 5.

1998 The final phase of the Cypress Replacement portion of the Nimitz Freeway is completed.

1999 The new Guerneville Bridge (Highway 116) is opened and dedicated.

2000 All District 4 toll bridges are equipped with FasTrak.

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