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Unbuilt Albany: A pedestrian underpass is proposed under San Pablo Avenue in 1939

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Solano Avenue at San Pablo Avenue is not the busiest intersection in Albany today (that honor goes to Buchanan and San Pablo), but it was in 1939.
Traffic was so heavy that the city considered building a pedestrian underpass so safely cross San Pablo to and from school.
There had been a jump in residential development on the west side of San Pablo, meaning an increasing number of children who had to cross San Pablo and Solano to get to and from school. Buchanan Street at that time was a two-lane road that was located farther north of its present location, unaligned with Marin Avenue as it is today. The USDA lab on Buchanan was seven months from completion and another development, a horse racing track at Fleming Point on the waterfront, was being debated. Albany was already discussing relocating Buchanan and years later would claim a slice of the Gill Tract to build the thoroughfare we know today.
The Eastshore Highway was two years old at the time the underpass proposal was made and the main route to get to the highway (and the Bay Bridge) from Albany and North Berkeley was to cross San Pablo on Solano up and over Albany Hill to the highway entrance on Pierce Street.
The underpass idea was floated in October of 1939 and gained some traction, but attempts to get state or federal assistance lagged and two years later there was a war to deal with.
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This section of an early 1940s map of Berkeley is one of the few to show both the Golden Gate Turf Club (Golden Gate Fields today) and the El Cerrito Kennel Club. Neither were in operation at the same time. The El Cerrito dog track closed in early 1939, while the Albany horse track closed after less than two weeks in early 1941. Note that what is now frontage road through to Emeryville was then a one-block stretch named Front Street.

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An enlarged and numbered view shows that Marin Avenue (1) and Buchanan Street (2) are still unaligned. Buchanan only runs to Cleveland Street and does not enter the highway. A separate section of Buchanan does go from the highway to the race track. Crossing Solano at San Pablo (3) leads to Pierce Street (4) and access to the highway. Note the size of the Gill Tract, which had previously included the USDA lab site.

Chris Treadway