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Remembering the Berkeley Heliport

An SFO helicopter takes off from the Berkeley Heliport in this Berkeley Chamber of Commerce photo from the early 1960s.

It seems quaint and even hard to imagine in these days of national security and air travel safety restrictions, but Berkeley once had its own heliport where airline passengers could board an SFO 10-passenger Sikorsky helicopter bound for San Francisco or Oakland international airports. Some airlines included the service at low or no cost as part of the airfare.
The heliport was located on the waterfront west of the Eastshore Freeway (Interstate 80) just north of University Avenue and operated from 1961 to 1974, when San Fracncisco Oakland Helicopter Airlines relocated its operation to the roof of the new Holiday Inn in Emeryville.
The Berkeley facility was part of a network of heliports that included downtown Oakland, downtown San Francisco, central Contra Costa and Marin County, and at one time was touted as the most patronized system of its kind in the United States.
The Berkeley Heliport, which the Chamber of Commerce took the lead in attracting and promoting, broke ground in September 1961 and opened later that year. It was touted as a certain economic boon for the city, particularly in attracting conventions.

Dignitaries at the groundbreaking for the Berkeley Heliport in September 1961.

Along with the attraction of avoiding Bay Area freeway traffic and free parking, it offered the novelty of getting to fly over the area in a copter.
A low point for the Berkeley facility came in 1972, when an armed man entered the heliport and demanded to be taken via helicopter to the airport, where he intended to hijack a plane to Cuba. He was eventually talked out of those plans by a Berkeley police sergeant.

Coverage of the attempted 1972 helicopter hijacking in Berkeley.

Dignitaries arrive at the Berkeley Heliport in 1962.

SFO Helicopter Airlines was touted as the world’s busiest in 1962.

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce map of sightseeing destinations includes the heliport (No. 2).

Along with passengers, priority mail was ferried by helicopter to Bay Area airports.

A 1973 ad for SFO Helicopters.

Delta Airlines promoting helicopter service in 1967.

The era of the Berkeley Heliport ended in 1974, when SFO relocated it to Emeryville. SFO ceased operations in 1976.

Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2014
Under: Berkeley, History, transportation | No Comments »

El Cerrito: Ohlone Greenway reopens

ohlonegreenway

BART has completed seismic work on its elevated tracks in El Cerrito and sections of the Ohlone Greenway have reopened to pedestrians abd bicyclists. The transit agency is holding an informal celebration of the reopening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday on the Greenway at Fairmount Avenue next to the El Cerrito Plaza station.

Posted on Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
Under: Albany, Cities, community, El Cerrito, transportation | No Comments »

Overnight lane closures on Carquinez Bridge scheduled for Saturday night

Three of the four lanes on the eastbound Carquinez Bridge will be closed starting at 11:55 p.m. Dec. 21 and reopen no later than 6 a.m. Dec. 22, Caltrans announced Friday.
The closure is needed to repair a bridge deck joint and the project is being scheduled to minimize traffic disruption, but there still may be delays, the agency warned.

Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2013
Under: Crockett, transportation | No Comments »

Bay Bridge: What went up, now coming down

bridges1935
With dismantling of the cantilever section of the Bay Bridge now started, here are two different scans of the same 1935 photo of what the eastern span looked like under construction, the faithful ferry still at work and leaving a wake after crossing between the towers.

baybridge1936cantilever

Posted on Saturday, November 16th, 2013
Under: Contra Costa County, History, transportation | No Comments »

BART track work will mean delays Sunday between North Berkeley and El Cerrito Plaza stations

BART has issued the following advisory:

Maintenance delays between North Berkeley, El Cerrito Plaza on Nov. 10

We are conducting track maintenance between North Berkeley and El Cerrito Plaza stations on Sunday, November 10 which may affect your travel. From 9 am to 3 pm you may experience 10 to 15 minute delays.

We appreciate your patience as we work to keep providing you with the high level of service you rely upon.

You can get BART Service Advisories (BSAs) on your phone. To sign up for BSAs, please visit us on the web at www.bart.gov/advisories. You may also call 511 to get up-to-date service information.

Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Under: Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, transportation | No Comments »

New stop signs installed in El Cerrito

stopsign2

El Cerrito this week installed new stop signs at four intersections:
* Barrett Avenue at Arlington Boulevard , creating an all-way stop;
n Stockton Avenue at Ashbury and Albemarle avenues (pictured above), creating an all-way stop;
* Ashbury Avenue at Central Avenue , creating an all-way stop;
* Curry Avenue at Pomona Avenue, creating a one-way stop.
El Cerrito police said Oct. 30 that “many drivers are not noticing the new signs, creating some near misses,” a concern that will be even greater when tick-or-treaters are out Thursday evening.

Posted on Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Under: El Cerrito, transportation | No Comments »

Richmond: New lane closures for Interstate 580 project

richmondbridge

If negotiating the lane closures and alterations on Interstate 580 by the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge hasn’t been confusing enough, and judging from the traffic backups it has been plenty confusing, here is the latest round announced Tuesday by Caltrans:

Interstate 580 Scofield Avenue and Western Drive
Bridge Decks Replacement Project

Eastbound Lane Closures Resume

Contra Costa County – Eastbound lane closures resume for the Interstate 580 construction project east of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

· Tuesday night, October 29, through Thursday night, October 31, Caltrans will close one eastbound lane from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
· Friday night, November 1, Caltrans will close one eastbound lane from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
· In general, during November, eastbound lane closures will continue as necessary Monday night, through Thursday night, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and Friday night, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

This is an active construction site and the 45 MPH speed zone will be enforced by the California Highway Patrol. Drive cautiously through the construction zone and leave a safe traveling distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. Please remember to “Slow for the Cone Zone.”

For more information about the project, call the message line at (510) 286-5820 or visit the Caltrans webpage at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/580scofieldave/

Posted on Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Under: Richmond, transportation | No Comments »

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

albanyunderpass1939
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.
eastshore1942b
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.

eastshore1942f
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.

Posted on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
Under: Albany, community, History, transportation | No Comments »

Pretty soon they’ll be doing this in reverse: Last Bay Bridge cantilever section ready for construction in 1936

baybridge1936cantilever

One section of the eastern (cantilever) half of the Bay Bridge remains to be built in this aerial view published February of 1936 in the Oakland Tribune Yearbook. The wake of a ferry that has passed through opening is visible.
In the background, the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge are visible, but no roadway has been constructed yet.
Alcatraz Island is in the background at the right.

Posted on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
Under: Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, History, Richmond, transportation | No Comments »

Richmond: More lane and ramp closures for I-580 construction

Caltrans issued the following announcement Friday:

Interstate 580 Scofield Avenue and Western Drive
Bridge Decks Replacement Project

Eastbound Lane and Ramp Closures Continue Next Thursday, October 24

Contra Costa County – Eastbound lane and ramp closures continue for the Interstate 580 construction project east of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

· On Thursday, October 24th, Caltrans will close one eastbound lane from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
· The eastbound on-ramp from Western Drive to Interstate 580 will also be closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

On Thursday night, October 24, Caltrans will shift eastbound lanes to the left side of the Scofield Avenue Bridge, and lanes will no longer be in a split traffic configuration. Construction will take place on the right side of the bridge. Bridge deck construction is expected to be complete in December 2013. Depending on weather conditions, some paving may remain to be completed next spring.

Eastbound traffic is currently in a split traffic configuration, with one left lane, one right lane, and construction taking place in an island between the lanes. Caltrans has observed that during the day, some drivers are confused about the eastbound lane configuration. Please be aware that when both lanes are open, either lane will take motorists through the construction zone. They will remain on eastbound I-580. Due to narrower lanes and concrete barriers on both sides of the lane, drivers are slowing down in the construction site. Please allow at least an additional 20 minutes for the eastbound afternoon commute.

This is an active construction site and the 45 MPH speed zone will be enforced by the California Highway Patrol. Drive cautiously through the construction zone and leave a safe traveling distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. Please remember to “Slow for the Cone Zone.”

For more information about the project, call the message line at (510) 286-5820 or visit the Caltrans webpage at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/580scofieldave/

Posted on Friday, October 18th, 2013
Under: Richmond, transportation | No Comments »