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San Francisco: Traffic Jam on the Bayshore Freeway

A similar view of the Bayshore Freeway, now known as Route 101 was posted here last year, and we return to the area with this recently found image. This photograph is dated June 17, 1959, and identified by the USC Archives as a view north towards “Hospital Curve” and the pedestrian bridge above it. San Francisco General Hospital is located behind the bank and trees on the left side of the roadway.

Back when the first image was posted research uncovered the following: “The thoroughfare, known as the 101 Freeway replaced the dangerous and non divided “Bloody Bayshore” Highway between San Francisco and San Jose which was built between the late-twenties and 1937. Construction of the modern replacement, the Bayshore Freeway began in San Francisco in the late-forties and was finished in 1962.”

Tell us what you find of interest in this view of the highway and the earlier photo of the Bayshore Freeway. Some viewers have commented that the earlier photo is correctly identified, and others have remarked that it is a different expressway, can anyone positively identify this location?

The photo is courtesy of the USC Libraries.

31 responses to “San Francisco: Traffic Jam on the Bayshore Freeway

  1. Driving toward the camera, in the far left lower corner of the photograph, is a 1950 BUICK Super followed by a 1946 BUICK, either a Roadmaster or Super.

    • Driving toward the camera, 2nd lane from the right, 3 cars behind the circa 1956 ROLLS ROYCE, is a 1959 CHEVROLET [non-flat-top], followed by a 1955 PACKARD Clipper.

      Also driving toward the camera, 1st lane from the right, near the curve in the roadway, is a 1955 NASH, followed by a 1959 FORD beach-wagon.

  2. 5 cars back on the far right lane, a nice new Vauxhall Victor sedan, no doubt picked up at a Pontiac dealer here in the states. 6 cars back in the next lane over is a new `59 Chrysler. I see the rack on the rook of the `52 Buick in the lower RH corner, and wonder if the car has been relegated to be a Painter’s workhorse by now? The `48 Buick behind it sure looks dated against everything else on the road by `59! (I bet the guy in the Rolls next to him is asking if he has any Grey Poupon!)

  3. Compared to traffic in most places in 2017, there are hardly any pickup trucks in this photo. Interesting to note how the composition of traffic has evolved (or devolved) since 1959.

  4. Looks as if the Rolls has been in a minor collision . The radiator grill, bumper guard, and RF fender appear damaged.

    • I’ve been noticing that many of the traffic jam/rush hour photos we see here have very few trucks of any kind. The lack of over the road or long haul trucks seems logical given the lack of interstates. I’m guessing that pick-ups and suv type vehicles weren’t really necessary as passenger cars were still mostly full size, body on frame, and capable of towing/hauling. The lack of service and delivery type trucks puzzles me a bit. Perhaps just coincidence.

      • Could it be because most service and delivery trucks couldn’t cruise comfortably at highway speeds. For that matter, I’m not sure of the gearing of most pickup trucks, but I know they didn’t tend to still run on older sixes. Could they keep up with traffic comfortably?

  5. Living within about 2 miles from this location at that time, I’d think there was an accident or something to cause that backup based on the spacing of the cars.
    Also, that curve was murderous (literally) before they installed that center barrier

    • When I was a kid, the traffic report frequently included accidents at “hospital curve”. I thought that they called it that because it sent so many people to the hospital.

  6. On the right, fifth car back is an Opel Record – I think. My dad had a ’59 wagon. Got so good memories of trips in that car.

  7. As ever, San Francisco is an eclectic place. A smidgen of ‘furrin’ cars amidst a sea of classic Yankee iron. The VW on the right must have been full out to be running in the fast lane, literally pedal to the metal. Wonder what the speed limit was there at that time.

    • I’m sure California is no different than Florida, where the slowest cars are always hogging the passing lane. I’m a big fan of the 1950 Buick and think it’s the best looking car in the traffic jam.

  8. Hmmm, the small sedan in the far right lane has been id’d as a Renault, however, it looks more like a Morris Minor sedan to these old eyes. It appears to be followed by an early fifties Plymouth (station wagon?), and a “57” Chevy wagon.

    • The Minor is similar but being front engined, it has an real grill opening for the radiator whereas the 4CV has some horizontal chrome bars to give the effect of a grill but there is no actual opening. Interesting that at the time, Renault was unsure enough of the public’ acceptance of a rear engined car that they felt it necessary to make it look like a front engined one. Also note the “real” radiator openings in the front edge of the rear fenders.

  9. What is the bulbous booted car alongside the pick up,on the right carriageway?A Nash wagon ahead behind the box truck?

    • The car next to the pickup looks like a ’49 Plymouth. The station wagon behind the box truck is a mid 50’s Nash Rambler.

  10. Hi everyone,
    The big deal about this photo has not yet been clearly stated…..
    Car styling was distinctive enough that it was easy and a pleasure to “spot“ `em and call out each make, model and year even at some distance.. Just try that on today`s highways. Hah! Near inpossible to separate one jelly bean from another until you get close up.

    No one mentioned the nice `51 Merc or the `55/-56 Packard coming at us. Proud cars any of us would enjoy owning amongst the hum-drum commuter cars and wagons. The comments about the lack of pickups and suburban monsters compared to todays mix are so true. Of course we had plenty of station wagons out there that did just fine, thank you. Usual speed limit on Calif. highways back in 1959 was posted at 55 MPH. It jumped to 65 MPH with advent of upgrading to federal Interstate super highways and we now have many in Calif. with segments posted at 70 MPH. Of course, this is routinely abused.

    Thanks for all the good posts.

    The 1950s were terrific years in car styling, with all makes trying to outdo the other.
    Excellent nostaligic photo of the Bayshore 101.

  11. A follow up:
    1. The lonely stick post small sign on the side of the road near the small water drain is a bit odd. It is too small for speed limit. Maybe a “No parking Anytime“? or just road i.d.: “Hwy 101“?
    2. Notice the infamous Calif. “ice plant“ just getting a good hold of the sandy looking embankment on southboud side, northbound side is nice and wooly with the ice plant well established. This is very common sight to this day mainly in and around So-Cal areas. Much admired for crash cushion vs. trees and monster sign poles.
    3. Center divider is particularly puney compared to what is used on today`s major freeways, turnpikes and toll roads. We see huge modular “K-rails“ and staggered concrete barriers or wide gaps of bare soil medians (also providing center drainage out in desert highway areas during flash flooding rainstorms).
    4. Virtually no side or center lane “shoulders“ for emergency vehicle access or pull-out areas for break-downs and ability to get out of the road quickly if out of gas, dead engine, overheating, car wreck, etc. This is NOT a good example of good safe highway design. Looks very much like low-bid design. If you drive a lot of freeways and Interstates, you know and can appreciate the modernization of our far superior roads today.
    5. That VW Bug in the fast lane going northbound is very troubling to see. Well noted by other postings too. As usual, probably got up late and is trying to make up for his behavior on the way to work or class and will likely still arrive tardy.
    6. Lastly, we see some “box“ trucks (Gallo wine truck) and one on northbound side, but there are NO semi-truck & trailer big-rigs. They will come, baby.
    Stay safe out there!

  12. The Bayshore Freeway has an (un- mentionable) similar name — these days. Perhaps the most interesting signage in that area — is located at the South end of San Francisco Bay , nearby San Jose, where many freeways converge: It shows: A “Needle & Thread , below it, One word: Weave!!!!

  13. I see that bad motor-way habits were instilled from way back when. The “fast” lane is actually the most populated and probably the slowest as a result. This is still very much the case today in South Africa. In Europe this is not so. People there know that the outside lane should be kept open for faster moving traffic.

  14. That photo is indeed the Bayshore Freeway at Hospital Curve. This segment replaced the old traffic route on Potrero Ave., and was opened to traffic on Oct. 1, 1953 after two years of construction.

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