The Loma Prieta earthquake left the Embarcadero Freeway and Central Freeway standing, but helped make the case for tearing them down.
"I think since the Loma Prieta earthquake, we have learned that we don't want to build any more double-decker anything," said SF County Transportation Authority Executive Director Jose Luis Moscovich.
The Embarcadero Freeway ran more than a mile along San Francisco's waterfront, with exits at Washington Street and Broadway. It was a key artery into the center of the city. A stump of freeway to nowhere marked the spot where it was originally intended to continue on to the Golden Gate Bridge. Business interests in Chinatown and North Beach fought to have the freeway rebuilt. San Francisco chose to get rid of it.
"I made the decision to demolish it because I thought it was a terrible blight, like a scar on the face of the city, and replace it with what we have today," said former SF Mayor Art Agnos.
Todays stands a surface-level expressway lined with palm trees. Locals and tourists now run along the revitalized waterfront. The historic F-line streetcars came along with it.
The facelift wasn't just on the outside. The Embarcadero went from industrial to fashionable. Inside the Ferry Building, high-end restaurants and boutiques moved in after a major renovation.
An aerial view of the Central Freeway shows where it ended at Franklin, and the busy ramps at Oak and Fell. All of that is gone, but not without a long fight, pitting neighbor versus neighbor and the city. The compromise has the freeway now touching down at Market and Octavia, the double deck section is now a European style boulevard in the heart of the city.
It wasn't the end of double-decker freeways in the city. The 280 connector was closed the night of the quake and didn't re-open for seven years. It kept its double-deck, but with some serious improvements.
"In a number of places the columns were fitted with steel jackets that were bolted onto the columns to hold them together," said Moscovich.
"We used the opportunity created by this terrible physical disaster and made San Francisco stronger and better at the broken places," said Agnos.
'89 QUAKE FULL COVERAGE:
Web exclusive content commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. Includes extended interviews with reporters who covered the quake, as well as city officials and first responders who lived through it all.
Written and produced by Ken Miguel