Presidio Tunnel Tops

May 14th, 2017 No Comments »


Over the past two decades, the 1,500-acre Presidio of San Francisco has emerged as a great national park transformed from a military post.  As the new Doyle Drive makes its way to the Golden Gate Bridge and the elevated road passes through the Presidio, you have probably noticed that new concrete tunnels have been constructed.  You may have thought: tunnels through what?  There is no massive mountain that the tunnels pass through – right now they are coursing through air!  But wait a few more months and the Presidio Tunnel Tops will be landscaped so that you can walk across from the historic Main Post area and the grassy Main Parade to Crissy Field.  The Presidio Tunnel Tops will have turf and trails and plants growing out of tons of soil that will be transported there.

Designed by James Corner Field Operations (the landscape firm behind New York’s High Line), the Presidio Tunnel Tops will feature scenic overlooks, paths and gardens, a community plaza with food and visitor services, a campfire circle and picnic grounds. From the tunnel tops, there will be 360-degree views of the Bay not available anywhere else in San Francisco.

Twenty-five years ago, visionary Bay Area leaders, urban planners, and citizens were faced with replacing the seismically unsafe highway to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Doyle Drive was an above-ground highway that divided the Presidio’s waterfront from its historic core.  Caltrans required that the highway be rebuilt, not just repaired after the Loma Prieta earthquake.  San Francisco landscape architect Michael Painter brought up his idea of the tunnels more than 20 years ago on and he has followed the project all the way.  More than 10,000 people attended workshops and tours to put in their ideas about how Doyle Drive could best be rebuilt and they were entranced by the idea of tunnels to minimize traffic and noise and afford new usable open space.  The design process will conclude in 2017, followed by a two-year construction period.

~ Mary Anne Miller

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