Interstate 880

Interstate 880, known as California 17 until the mid-1980s, is the Nimitz Freeway between San Jose and Oakland, culminating at the Maze interchange (Interstates 80 and 580). It generally follows the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay and is heavily traveled. Originating at the Interstate 280/California 17 interchange in San Jose, the freeway culminates its northerly journey at the Maze interchange (Interstates 80 and 580) in Oakland. Although damaged in the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989, its connection to Interstate 80 was restored by 1999.

Interstate 880 improves in San Jose. On November 13, 2003, a four lane segment of Interstate 880 between First Street and the Montague Expressway in the city saw widening from four to six lanes. Work began on the $74 million project in 2001. Interestingly engineers predict the average travel speed along the 2.5 mile stretch of highway to increase from 9 to 51 MPH. The commute time is predicted to decrease by an amazing 18 minutes along the same stretch of highway. The new lanes are placed within the old median zone that once contained oleander bushes and a steel cable.1

Interstate 880 Highway Guides

Much of Interstate 880 was built in the 1950s as part of California 17, a long freeway corridor originating in Santa Cruz and extending north to San Jose and Oakland, then turning northwest to San Rafael via the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Only the section of California 17 south of San Jose retains its designation; the rest of the route is part of Interstate 880, Interstate 80, and Interstate 580. The section of Interstate 880 over the Cypress Viaduct was briefly known as U.S. 50 Business until the U.S. 50 route was decommissioned from the Bay Area (see any 1960s-era Rand McNally Road Atlas, San Francisco Bay Area/Oakland inset).

This section of former California 17 was introduced into the state highway system as a result of Federal Highway Administration action in 1983 and passage of State Assembly Bill 2741 in 1984. Interstate 880 was completely signed by January 1, 1986. A fraction of its former self, California 17 still remains designated south of Interstate 280 on its way to Santa Cruz. Interstate 880 is generally six to eight lanes wide, with some older sections undergoing reconstruction and expansion in the South Bay area in 2002.

The double-decker section of Interstate 880 along the Nimitz Freeway was the site of a tragic collapse of the Cypress Structure on October 17, 1989, during the Loma Prieta earthquake, resulting in the deaths of 42 motorists. While Interstate 880 was closed, Interstate 980 became the through route, connecting Interstate 880 with Interstate 580, Interstate 80, and California 24. Eight years later, a large segment of Interstate 880 reopened in Oakland on a completely new alignment in July 1997. By 1999, ten years after the Loma Prieta Earthquake, Interstate 880 was fully reopened on its new alignment. Community input was taken to ensure that the new freeway would be less intrusive to Oakland neighborhoods. The former alignment of the Cypress Structure is now found on Mandela Parkway. The large median along Mandela Parkway is where this tragic accident occurred. The former double-deck section of the Nimitz Freeway was reconstructed on the new alignment as a viaduct with no double deck sections and capable to withstand higher magnitude earthquakes.

Other sections of Interstate 880 were widened and reconstructed, including the narrow segments in Santa Clara County. This included reconstruction of the interchange between Interstate 880 and California 237, which was largely complete as of early 2008. Additionally ACTA and ACTIA Projects in Alameda County included several along the I-880 corridor, such as improvements to the interchanges with Broadway/Jackson Street (Oakland), California 92 (Hayward), Washington Avenue and California 262.

Between 1991 and 2010, Interstate 880 has seen and will see a wide variety of improvements that have or will alter the face of the Nimitz Freeway. Some of the improvements are the result of the disastrous Loma Prieta Earthquake, while others are designed to improve capacity and safety implicit in an Interstate route. Federal, state, and local funds paid for the Interstate 880 upgrades. Both Santa Clara and Alameda Counties passed transportation sales tax measures, with some proceeds earmarked toward Interstate 880. Even the redesignation of California 17 into Interstate 880 helped bring additional federal funds to the upgrade projects.

The projects completed from south to north:

  • 2010 - Build new exit lanes from Interstate 280 to Interstate 880
  • 2006 - Rebuild Interstate 880/Coleman Avenue interchange
  • 1994 - Widen Interstate 880 over Caltrain tracks
  • 1998 - Rebuild U.S. 101/Interstate 880 interchange
  • 2003 - Widen Interstate 880 to six lanes between U.S. 101 and Montague Expressway (Santa Clara County G-4)
  • 1995 - Complete Tasman Drive overpass
  • 2005 - Open new ramps at California 237/Interstate 880 interchange
  • 1992 - Widen Interstate 880 from California 237 (Exit 8C) to Dixon Landing Road (Exit 10)
  • 2004 - Rebuild Dixon Landing Road overcrossing
  • 2008 - Rebuild California 262 (Mission Boulevard)/Interstate 880 Interchange
  • 2008 - Construct carpool lanes from California 237 to California 262
  • 1998 - Widen Interstate 880 to eight lanes from Union City to Fremont; rebuild 12 interchanges
  • 2009 - Rebuild California 92/Interstate 880 Interchange
  • 2002 - Repave Interstate 880 from Santa Clara-Alameda County Line north to High Street (to California 77/42nd Street) Interchange in Oakland
  • 1997 - Demolish remains of former Interstate 880 structure (destroyed by Loma Prieta Earthquake) and open new Cypress Freeway link between Interstate 980 and Interstate 80/Interstate 580 east of San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

Much of the interchange improvements involved removing former cloverleaf ramp merging patterns and replacing them with a more modern design. In total, nearly $2.5 billion has been spent or will be spent on these projects. Longer range projects include possible extension of high occupancy vehicle lanes from California 237 to U.S. 101 and new ramps at the California 77/42nd Avenue/High Street interchange in Oakland, Washington Boulevard interchange in San Leandro, and The Alameda interchange in Santa Clara.

Interstate 880 scenes
Northbound Interstate 880 signage as seen from 23rd Avenue in Oakland. Note how the old California 17 shield is covered up with a small Interstate 880 shield in the second picture. Photos taken 08/24/03.
Southbound Interstate 880 freeway entrance assembly. Photo taken by Trevor Carrier (2002).
Northbound Interstate 880 guide sign. Photo taken by Trevor Carrier (2002).
This Interstate 880 freeway entrance shield assembly is located on eastbound Cushing Parkway at the southern Fremont Boulevard connection to Interstate 880 south. Photo taken 08/05/05.
Freeway entrance assembly for Interstate 880 along eastbound Marina Boulevard (Exit 33). Photo taken 12/30/01.
Eastbound Marina Boulevard signage for Interstate 880. Photo taken 12/30/01.
Eastbound Marina Boulevard directional signage for Interstate 880 (Nimitz Freeway) (Exit 33). Photos taken 12/30/01.

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Page Updated February 22, 2008.

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