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The Doyle Drive Historic Corridor

Doyle Drive High Viaduct<< back

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE AND HIGHWAY DISTRICT (GGB&HD) built the High Viaduct between 1934 and 1937. For over 70 years, it has carried motorists over the Presidio’s Cavalry Valley. Doyle Drive was the only means for motorists to travel between San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from 1937 to 1940, when the State of California completed the southerly approach road between Park Presidio Boulevard and the interchange at the west end of the High Viaduct.

Stilwell Hall, the Army Air Corps enlisted men’s barracks (left), the Crissy Army Airfield Administration Building (right) and the High Viaduct, 1947.

Stilwell Hall, the Army Air Corps enlisted men’s barracks (left), the Crissy Army Airfield Administration Building (right) and the High Viaduct, 1947. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

One of the piers of the High Viaduct under construction, 1934.

One of the piers of the High Viaduct under construction, 1934. Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, San Francisco, California

The piers of the High Viaduct bridging Cavalry Valley under construction, 1934

The piers of the High Viaduct bridging Cavalry Valley under construction, 1934. Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, San Francisco, California

AN ELEVATED ROADWAY BUILT BETWEEN BLUFFS on each side of Cavalry Valley, the High Viaduct is the result of the Golden Gate Bridge engineering team headed by Joseph B. Strauss of Chicago and principal engineer Charles Alton Ellis who was chiefly responsible for the design of the suspension bridge. The High Viaduct allowed for a straight, six-lane roadway at an acceptable grade of 4% between the bluffs, eliminating potential problems such as major curves and steeper grades. The viaduct also responded to stipulations in the right-of-way permit granted to the GGB&HD by the U.S. War Department and the Presidio’s Ninth Army command. Military officials required that the bridge’s approach roads have no grade crossings with Presidio roads. The High Viaduct allowed bridge traffic to cross over Lincoln Boulevard and Crissy Field Avenue without interfering with traffic on those roads. The permit also stipulated that the GGB&HD compensate the Army for any military facilities demolished in the construction of Doyle Drive.

THE VIADUCT CONSISTS MAINLY OF REINFORCED CONCRETE PIERS supporting a series of steel Pratt-truss spans carrying the roadway deck. It resembles other viaduct-elevated roadways which came of age with the spread of the automobile in the 1920s and 30s. They represent an important stage in the development of modern freeways.

THE HIGH VIADUCT SHARES SEVERAL AESTHETIC FEATURES with the Golden Gate Bridge. On the larger piers, the stepped battering (slanting) of the legs, the piers’ inset panels, and the rectangular spaces between pier legs echo the Art Deco architecture of the Golden Gate Bridge’s monumental towers. Bay Area architect Irving F. Morrow designed both the towers and the curved steel, Streamline Moderne lighting standards that line the Golden Gate Bridge and Doyle Drive. The High Viaduct’s deck truss spans also harmonize with the bridge’s stiffening trusses. All of the exposed steel on both the bridge and the High Viaduct is painted the International Orange color first recommended by Morrow to make the bridge complement the natural colors of the Golden Gate landscape.

BOTH THE HIGH VIADUCT AND DOYLE DRIVE have reached the ends of their useful lives. As part of the Doyle Drive Replacement Project, the High Viaduct will be demolished. Two new viaducts will be constructed in its place.

The elevated viaduct minimized Doyle Drive’s impact on the Presidio of San Francisco.

 

 
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