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This 1940 article appeared almost four years to the day the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened. In its original configuration east- and west-bound bridge traffic was on the upper deck, with the lower deck carrying truck traffic, and Key System trains to and from the East Bay. This configuration lasted until the Key System tracks were, unfortunately, removed in the 1950s. Today, traffic to San Francisco is carried on the upper deck, and traffic to the East Bay on the lower.

Bay Bridge Traffic

Recent Smashups Suggest Changes in Regulations

Automobile Editor The Chronicle

Motorists in the San Francisco Bay Area are heralding with delight the contemplated action of the State authorities to make drastic changes in traffic regulations over the San Francisco-Oakland bridge in an effort to lessen the driving hazards now existing. The number of serious accidents that have occurred recently have awakened the officials to the fact that something must be done to curb reckless driving and to protect the safe and sane car operators using the span.

Meetings are to be called within the next few days at which representatives of the bridge engineering department, the highway patrol and Frank W. Clark, director of Public Works, will be in conference and plans outlined for the betterment of traffic conditions. Chief E. Raymond Cato of the Highway Patrol, has many ideas as to what is needed to lessen the present hazards. He is strongly in favor of a divided highway plan, by constructing a barrier in the center of the roadway thus preventing crossing the center dividing line, which is now frequently done with dire results.


Cato points out the barrier would effectively prevent head-on collisions although it might increase the number of side-swiping mishaps. However, he feels that the elimination of head-on collisions which frequently results in sideswiping at the same time would be far less costly to human life.

Other suggestions that will come up for consideration at the conference will be:

Lowering the speed limit.
Controlling the speed by means of semaphores.
Installation of additional warning signs.
Construction of “turnouts” which the Highway Patrol may order faulty drivers off the driving lanes.

Inspector Andrew J. Ford, in charge of the patrol on the bridge, strongly favors the “turn-out” plan for he points out that it is suicidal for a traffic official to turn around on the bridge to try and pursue a traffic violator going in the opposite direction.


While some opposition may be heard to the control barrier strip because it would narrow the existing traffic lanes, the idea of controlling the speed and traffic by means of semaphores is looked upon in high favor. Incidentally the system in use over bridges spanning the East river in New York might be adopted. Traffic is regulated over these New York spans by semaphores. During the peak hours of travel in one direction the green lights regulate the traffic over three, four or five lanes as the heavy flow requires, red lights giving clear lanes for the lighter travel heading in the opposite direction. There is no moving over into the red-lighted lanes and travel moves in both directions smoothly, and safely.

There have been many requests that the lower deck of the Bay Bridge be opened to passenger car traffic during peak hour travel in order to avoid the congestion as the flow of travel moves up to the toll gates. But these requests have received no attention on the part of the bridge authorities and wisely, too. However, the semaphore plan of controlling traffic throughout the day and during the peak hours of travel would no doubt materially lessen existing hazards. The semaphore plan should not be costly and it would not require much of an education plan to acquaint drivers with the system. They already know the meaning of the red and green lights and not very often are these signals disobeyed.

IN: Auto World : A weekly section of the San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, November 24, 1940
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