New Doyle Drive may give Presidio breathing room

The plan to rebuild the seismically unsafe San Francisco approach to the Golden Gate Bridge has been designed with a secondary purpose in mind: to lower the Doyle Drive overpass — in some places underground — opening up access and views from within the Presidio. The Presidio is a former military base that was designated a national park in 1994. The 1,168-acre park includes the Crissy Field waterfront area, which is currently separated from the rest of the Presidio by a steep grade above Mason Street and the high viaduct of Doyle Drive that spans between bluffs.

Presidio officials are reviewing proposals from three development teams to build the national park’s first hotel — to be called a lodge — at the Main Post site of the former military base.

While this site lacks direct access to Crissy Field, the plans for the new Doyle Drive replacement include a 984-foot underground tunnel, which would be covered with gently sloping grass in order to allow visitors of the park to walk from one area to the other.

“The reconfiguration of Doyle Drive provides a historic opportunity to recreate a connection between the Main Post of the Presidio and Crissy Field,” said Craig Middleton, Presidio Trust Executive Director. “The connection will enhance our plans to green the Main Parade ground and create a stunning visitor destination.”

The tunnel will be made not by excavating underground, but by burying the passageway since it’s situated next to a hillside. A similar, second tunnel — 1,476-feet long — will be placed below the San Francisco National Cemetery. This tunnel is not intended to create a pathway to the Crissy Field below, said Jose Luis Moscovich, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority; it will be more wooded and serve to reduce the noise and visual impacts of the roadway as it passes through the Presidio.

Between the two tunnels will be an at-grade roadway that is designed as a split roadway with trees on both sides to hide the traffic.

“It’s all designed so the resulting effect is not this massive freeway, but something that is a little more like a country road,” Moscovich said.

Construction work, slated to begin in 2010 and end as early as 2013, will replace the entire one and a half mile stretch of Doyle Drive, which carries 120,000 cars aily. The $810 million project is currently going through an environmental impact study that is due to be completed by the end of 2007.

Doyle Drive by the numbers

120,000: estimated number of cars that use overpass every weekday

$810 million: estimated cost to replace roadway

$620 million: total federal, state and local funds currently secured for project

Source: San Francisco County Transportation Authority

Drivers to fund road replacement

When Supervisor Jake McGoldrick first heard about the collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis two days ago, he said, the first thing he thought was, “We’ve got to replace Doyle Drive.”

More than 70 years old, Doyle Drive — the on/offramp that connects San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge — has the state's worst rating in terms of seismic stability, according to Jose Luis Moscovich, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

Although construction work is slated to begin in 2010, the $810 million project is still about $190 million short, said Moscovich.

While some additional federal funding is expected, San Francisco officials are planning on the “lion’s share” of themissing money to come from a new toll for cars that traverse Doyle Drive. The fee would be in addition to the $5 toll drivers pay to cross over Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. The price for the new levy has yet to be determined.

“Keep in mind the toll is not keeping pace with the level of tolls in other parts of the country,” Moscovich said. “If you cross the George Washington Bridge in New York the toll is $8.” He added that tolls would likely be collected electronically, through devices that read transponders or license plates.

Incidentally, San Francisco could get additional federal money for the Doyle Drive replacement project if they do move forward with a toll collection program.

The City is currently on the shortlist for a federal Department of Transportation grant directed toward congestion pricing programs. Five winners that will share a $1 billion prize from the nine semi-finalist cities — New York, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Miami, Denver and Dallas — are expected to be announced next week.

beslinger@examiner.com


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