Interstate 80 - California
On September 2, 2013, the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened to traffic. Built over the course of 11 years (starting in 2002) and at a cost of over $6.5 billion, the new eastern span of the bridge allows for a signature span connecting Oakland with Yerba Buena Island. Photo taken 03/08/15.
Interstate 80 is a major freeway corridor that connects San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, Vallejo, Fairfield, Vacaville, Davis, Sacramento, Auburn, and Truckee before entering Nevada and continuing east toward Reno, Elko, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, Omaha, Des Moines, Chicago, Toledo, Cleveland, and New York City. A transcontinental Interstate highway, Interstate 80 serves a great deal of traffic through the 11 states it serves. In California, Interstate 80 generally replaced the original route of U.S. 40 between San Francisco and Reno.
Transcontinental Interstate 80 begins its easterly journey in San Francisco, the city by the bay. Originating at the interchange with U.S. 101, Interstate 80 immediately ascends to the James Lick Skyway, which was rebuilt in its entirety in the late 2000s. The skyway grants spectacular views of downtown San Francisco, then connects directly to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge carries Interstate 80 across San Francisco Bay. The original bridge was under construction from July 9, 1933, and it opened to traffic on November 12, 1936. The bridge initially carried the dual designation of U.S. 40 and U.S. 50. The Bay Bridge originally consisted of three identifiable segments: western span (suspension bridge with four towers and mid-span anchorage), Yerba Buena Tunnel, and eastern span (a cantilever through truss bridge with an approach causeway). It was also the first suspension bridge to serve San Francisco (as it opened approximately six months prior to the Golden Gate Bridge on U.S. 101 and California 1). The bridge was originally double-decked through all three segments. From 1936 to 1963, the lower deck carried rail, truck, and auto traffic, while the top deck carried auto traffic only in both directions. In 1963, the bridge converted to the current configuration with eastbound traffic on the bottom level and westbound traffic on the top level. The Yerba Buena Tunnel, which passes through Yerba Buena Island, is the largest diameter transportation bore tunnel in the country and possibly the world.
Earthquake retrofitting improved the western (traditional suspension) span between 1994 and 2004, which is now up to current specifications. However, the original eastern span was not up to those specifications, and construction began in 2002 to replace it. After a decade of work, the new eastern span opened to traffic on September 2, 2013. The old eastern span was permanently closed on August 28, 2012, to allow for the shifting of traffic onto the new span. The new eastern span is a single-anchored suspension span with a single tower, along with a long approach causeway coming from Oakland. The causeway was completed first, and the single-anchored suspension segment was completed second. Unlike the tunnel and western span, the eastern span now has side-by-side travel lanes rather than double-deck travel lanes. A bicycle/pedestrian path also follows the eastern span all the way to Yerba Buena Island. The old eastern span, now disconnected from either approach, will be dismantled and removed over the course of several years (probably 2013 to 2015).
Upon leaving the Bay Bridge, Interstate 80 enters the MacArthur Maze, then turns north at Oakland to parallel the bayshore via the Eastshore Freeway. This freeway, which was originally built as U.S. 40, carries Interstate 80 almost due north toward Vallejo. Much of this segment of freeway, especially near Berkeley, is built on landfill.
The Carquinez Bridge consists of two spans that carry Interstate 80 over the Carquinez Straits between Crockett in Contra Costa County and Vallejo in Solano County. The northbound (eastbound) span was opened in 1958, and the southbound (westbound) span (Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge) opened on November 11, 2003. The northbound span is a cantilever span (retrofitted for earthquakes), and the southbound span is a suspension bridge. This photo also shows the original span (opened as part of U.S. 40 on May 11, 1927), which was removed in phases until it was fully dismantled in September 2007. Photo taken 11/28/04.
Prior to reaching Vallejo, Interstate 80 crosses the Carquinez Straits via a steel cantilever bridge and a suspension bridge. The suspension bridge for westbound (southbound) traffic is designated as the Alfred Zampa Bridge. The Zampa Bridge opened on November 11, 2003, and it replaced the original steel cantilever span that had opened on May 21, 1927. Eastbound (northbound) traffic uses another steel cantilever truss span that opened to traffic in 1958. After the Zampa bridge opened in 2003, a project followed thereafter where the 1927 bridge briefly served eastbound traffic while the 1958 span was retrofitted for earthquake safety. Thereafter, the 1927 span was dismantled and removed, gone completely by 2006. Leaving the bridge, Interstate 80 turns northeast at Vallejo, following a well-traveled route between the Bay Area and the capital city of Sacramento.
After passing over the Carquinez Straits, Interstate 80 turns northeast at Vallejo, following a well-traveled route between the Bay Area and the capital city of Sacramento, passing through Fairfield, Vacaville, and Davis along the way, finally crossing the wide Yolo Bypass flood control channel before reaching the capital city metropolitan area. At West Sacramento, Interstate 80 splits into Business Loop I-80/U.S. 50, which serves downtown Sacramento, and regular Interstate 80, which bypasses the city to the north.
After leaving Solano County, Interstate 80 continues along a well-traveled route between the Bay Area and the capital city of Sacramento, passing through Davis and over the wide Yolo Bypass flood control channel before reaching the city of West Sacramento and the capital city metropolitan area. At West Sacramento, Interstate 80 splits into Business Loop I-80/U.S. 50, which serves downtown Sacramento, and regular Interstate 80, which bypasses the city to the north.
As the freeway passes to the north ("over the top of") Sacramento, it passes through several suburbs of Sacramento. As it passes through Roseville and Auburn, Interstate 80 begins its slow ascent into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. As one of three major all-weather trans-Sierra routes in the winter (others include U.S. 50 and California 88), Interstate 80 is always busy with commercial traffic, tourists, skiers, commuters to Reno, and others. The road narrows to four lanes, but it remains very busy and very fast, especially for downhill (westbound) travelers. Interstate 80 crosses the Donner Summit, one of the highest points on the freeway, then descends into Truckee, a gateway to scenic Lake Tahoe. Passing by a few small towns in the Truckee River valley, Interstate 80 enters Nevada just east of Farad.
Changes in San Francisco: Eastern and Central Freeway Proposals
Interstate 80 currently ends at the U.S. 101 interchange, where it meets the Central Freeway. This was not always the planned terminal point for the transcontinental freeway. Prior to August 1965, Interstate 80 was planned to extend across the San Francisco Peninsula along a path roughly located along Fell and Oak Streets (called the Western Freeway) to meet California 1 (which would have also carried the Interstate 280 designation as part of the 1960s plan). Along with the proposed and now cancelled Western Freeway, U.S. 101/Central Freeway (now Octavia Boulevard) between Fell Street (the planned Western Freeway split) east to the current Lick/Central interchange was proposed to carry part of Interstate 80.
The Western Freeway extension of Interstate 80 across the peninsula was killed due to community opposition, community impact, environmental concerns, and cost. At the time the Western Freeway was cancelled, signage for Interstate 80 was retracted off the Central Freeway to end at the interchange between the Central Freeway and James Lick Skyway (today's interchange between U.S. 101 and Interstate 80).
Many years after Interstate 80 was removed from U.S. 101/Central Freeway, the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake damaged the Central Freeway, and much of the freeway was ultimately demolished in the early 2000s. It was replaced by at-grade Octavia Boulevard. Aside from the wider-than-normal right of way on Octavia Boulevard (where the Central Freeway used to run), the another remnant of the original freeway plan is the greenbelt area located between Fell and Oak Streets. This linear park was the original proposed east-west segment of Interstate 80 from Octavia Boulevard west to Golden Gate Park.
Changes in San Francisco: James Lick Skyway
The James Lick Skyway portion of Interstate 80 was replaced for a seismic retrofit through 2006 to 2009. Construction resulted in the demolition of several original structures approaching the Bay Bridge. The skyway was originally constructed in 1936 along with the Bay Bridge and was fully replaced in stages during this project. During construction, the highway was routed onto temporary structures located to the north of the existing viaduct, which was demolished and rebuilt from the ground up. Traffic has been switched to the new viaduct, and the temporary structures were later removed.
There have been prior discussions about whether the section of Interstate 80 between U.S. 101 and the Embarcadero exit (which is where Interstate 280 would have connected to Interstate 80 had that connection been constructed) may or may not be an official Interstate. An interesting confluence of facts leads to the reasons behind why the skyway may not be part of the Interstate Highway System:
- The legislative Route 80 is separated into two sections:
- From Route 101 near Division Street in San Francisco to Route 280 near First Street in San Francisco.
- From Route 280 near First Street in San Francisco to the Nevada state line near Verdi, Nevada, passing near Oakland, via Albany, via Sacramento, passing near Roseville, via Auburn, via Emigrant Gap, via Truckee and via the Truckee River Canyon.
In spite of all these facts, there are competing reasons why Interstate 80 is continuous all the way to U.S. 101. Examples include the exit numbering program (which begins at U.S. 101 and proceeds west), the possibility that this segment is non-chargeable Interstate rather than chargeable Interstate, and the overhead signs and shields that display Interstate 80, not California 80. With the recent project to upgrade the James Lick Skyway to Interstate standards, it seems like the skyway can be safely considered part of Interstate 80. Therefore, for our purposes we will continue to consider the skyway section as part of Interstate 80.
For more on the James Lick Skyway Project, see the official Caltrans District 4 SAFER Program page.
Route Switch in West Sacramento and Sacramento
In 1980, Interstate 80 was realigned out of downtown Sacramento and onto former Interstate 880, the Sacramento bypass. This switch occurred because the segment of former Interstate 80 (now Business Loop I-80) between California 99 and California 244 does not meet Interstate standards, and a plan to realign and widen this segment of freeway was scrapped in favor of expanding Sacramento's light rail system. When Interstate 80 was moved onto the bypass, Interstate 880 was decommissioned (with the number saved for later use in the Bay Area). The segment through West Sacramento and downtown Sacramento became designated as Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50 (secretly Interstate 305), and the north-south portion from U.S. 50 and California 99 northeast to Interstate 80 and California 244 was designated as Business Loop I-80 and California 51.
For much more on this routing change in Yolo and Sacramento Counties, see Business Loop I-80.
Key Opening Dates of Interstate 80 in California
- U.S. 101 to Transbay Transit Ramp - Circa 1935
- San Francisco Bay Bridge (from Transbay Transit Ramp to Interstate 580-880) - November 12, 1936 (new eastern span -- self-anchored suspension bridge -- opened September 2, 2013)
- Interstate 580-880 to Temescal Creek - Circa 1936 (widened Circa 1955)
- Temescal Creek to California 13 - Circa 1954 (widened July 27, 1967)
- California 13 to Gilman Street - Circa 1939 (widened Circa 1956)
- Gilman Street to Interstate 80-580 North Split - Circa 1955
- Interstate 80-580 North Split to Contra Costa County Line - Circa 1936 (widened Circa 1960)
- Contra Costa County Line to Central Avenue - Circa 1936 (widened Circa 1953)
- Central Avenue to Carlson Blvd - Circa 1960
- Carlson Blvd to California 123 - Circa 1956
- California 123 to MacDonald Avenue - Circa 1956 (widened May 23, 1979)
- MacDonald Avenue to El Portal Drive - Circa 1956
- El Portal Drive to California 4 - Circa 1957
- California 4 to California Street - Circa 1958
- California Street to Contra Costa County-Solano County Line - Circa 1958 (widened April 29, 1976)
- Carquinez Straits Bridge - (westbound span - original: May 21, 1927, new: November 11, 2003, and eastbound span: 1958)
- Contra Costa County-Solano County Line to Toll Plaza - Circa 1958 (widened December 31, 1978)
- Toll Plaza to California 29 - Circa 1948 (widened Circa 1958)
- California 29 to California 37 - Circa 1958
- California 37 to Solano-Napa County Line - Circa 1963 (widened December 23, 1975)
- Solano-Napa County Line to American Canyon Road - Circa 1963
- American Canyon Road to Lynch Road - Circa 1963 (widened April 2, 1970)
- Lynch Road to California 12 - April 2, 1970
- California 12 to Interstate 680 - Circa 1961
- Interstate 680 to Suisun Valley Road - Circa 1928 (widened 1961)
- Suisun Valley Road to Dan Wilson Creek - Circa 1951 (widened Janurary 14, 1983
- Dan Wilson Creek to Suisun Creek - Circa 1932 (widened April 25, 1971)
- Suisun Creek to W. Fairfield Road - Circa 1961 (widened October 24, 1973)
- W. Fairfield Road to N. Fairfield Road - Circa 1963 (widened May 24, 1966)
- North Fairfield Road to Pleasant Valley Road - May 24, 1966
- Pleasant Valley Road to Alamo Creek - October 27, 1964
- Alamo Creek to Mason Street - October 27, 1964 (widened October 24, 1973)
- Mason Street to Ulatis Creek - October 27, 1964
- Ulatis Creek to Nut Creek Road - October 27, 1964 (widened October 24, 1973)
- Nut Creek Road to Horse Creek - October 27, 1964 (widened January 24, 1994)
- Horse Creek to Leisure Town Overcrossing - Circa 1946 (widened January 24, 1994)
- Leisure Town Overcrossing to Sweeney Creek - Circa 1946 (widened December 9, 1965)
- Sweeney Creek to California 113 - Circa 1946 (widened Circa 1963)
- California 113 to Pedrick Road - Circa 1946 (widened April 5, 1965)
- Pedrick Road to South Fork Putah Creek - Circa 1941 (widened November 27, 1973)
- South Fork Putah Creek to California 113 - Circa 1941 (widened October 10, 1974)
- California 113 to Yolo County Line - October 10, 1974
- Yolo County Line to Webster Undercrossing - Circa 1960 (widened July 11, 1984)
- Webster Undercrossing to Yolo Causeway (East) - Circa 1963 (widened August 22, 1986)
- Yolo Causeway (East) to Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50/Capital City Freeway - Circa 1951 (widened March 2, 1970)
- Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50/Capital City Freeway to California 84/Jefferson Boulevard - June 11th, 1970 (widened October 14, 1971)
- California 84/Jefferson Boulevard to Interstate 5 - October 14, 1971
- Interstate 5 to San Juan Road - August 14, 1970
- San Juan Road to Northgate Boulevard - August 14, 1970 (widened October 10, 1996)
- Northgate Boulevard to Pinell Street - August 14, 1970
- Pinell Street to Business Loop I-80/Capital City Freeway and California 244 - January 21, 1971
- Business Loop I-80/Capital City Freeway and California 244 to Linda Creek - Circa 1955 (widened August 21, 1973)
- Linda Creek to Douglas Boulevard - Circa 1955 (widened November 25, 1975)
- Douglas Boulevard to Taylor Road - Circa 1954 (widened August 13, 1990)
- Taylor Road to Hallbom Road Undercrossing - Circa 1959 (widened November 25, 1975)
- Hallbom Road Undercrossing to Russell Road - Circa 1946 (widened October 11, 1990)
- Russell Road to Auburn Ravine - October 20, 1973
- Auburn Ravine to Bowman OH North - October 20, 1973 (widened August 8, 1990)
- Bowman OH North to Dry Creek Road - October 20, 1973
- Dry Creek Road to Clipper Gap - May 21, 1974
- Clipper Gap to Applegate Road - Circa 1958 (widened May 21, 1974)
- Applegate Road to Heather Glen Overcrossing - Circa 1958 (widened February 18, 1966)
- Heather Glen Overcrossing - Weimar Overcrossing - Circa 1958
- Weimar Overcrossing to Weimar Overhead - Circa 1958 (widened October 30, 1975)
- Weimar Overhead to Weimar X Road - Circa 1958
- Weimar X Road to New England Mills OH - Circa 1958 (widened October 30, 1975)
- New England Mills OH to Illinoistown Overcrossing - Circa 1958 (widened Feburary 18, 1966)
- Illinoistown Overcrossing to Long Ravine Undercrossing - Circa 1958
- Long Ravine Undercrossing to North Long Ravine UP - Circa 1913 (widened October 14, 1987)
- North Long Ravine UP to Magra Overcrossing - Circa 1958
- Magra Overcrossing to Sawmill Overcrossing - Circa 1959
- Sawmill Overcrossing to Blue Canyon Road - Circa 1961
- Blue Canyon Road to Putt Lake Undercrossing - Circa 1959 (September 19, 1973
- Putt Lake Undercrossing to Beginning Separate Alignment - Circa 1959
- Beginning Separate Alignment to End Separate Alignment - October 2, 1964
- End Separate Alignment to Soda Spring Overcrossing - Circa 1959
- Soda Spring Overcrossing to Donner Park Overcrossing - October 7, 1964
- Donner Park Overcrossing to California 89 south - Circa 1959 (widened July 14, 1997
- California 89 south to West Truckee Undercrossing - Circa 1959 (widened July 12, 1991)
- West Truckee Undercrossing to Polaris Undercrossing - Circa 1959
- Polaris Undercrossing to Union Mills Bridge - Circa 1959 (widened October 15, 1992)
- Union Mill Bridge to Truckee River - Circa 1959 (widened July 17, 1987)
- Truckee River to End of Chain Station - Circa 1959 (widened January 13, 1986)
- End of Chain Station to Truckee River - Circa 1959
- Truckee River area - Circa 1959 (widened November 8, 1985)
- Truckee River area to Farad Undercrossing - Circa 1959
- Farad Undercrossing to California-Nevada State Line - Circa 1958
Many thanks to C.J. Moon for his assistance in providing this historical chronology.
Page Updated May 15, 2015.