San Francisco Officials to Address Freeway Interchange

Above Bayshore Boulevard, Cesar Chavez Street, and Potrero Avenue looms a complex web of freeway interlocks notorious in the San Francisco communities of Dogpatch and Mission. Known locally as the "Hairball," the poorly laid out network of roads has been the cause of serious safety concerns for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike. Each day the tangled collection of walkways and ramps sees intense traffic, as the interlocks connect the three streets to U.S. Highway 101, a vital north to south link for San Francisco.

Hillary Ronen, Supervisor for San Francisco's District 9, has recently taken it upon herself to address the concrete labyrinth. Referring to the situation candidly as "a mess," Supervisor Ronen pointed out the impact that the so-called Hairball has had on the neighborhood of Portola. The freeway so surrounds the small neighborhood that it is effectively cut off from direct access to the rest of the city, turning it into a relatively unknown island lost in the midst of the interchange.

This past July, in an effort to form a coalition dedicated to addressing the congested and unsafe network of roads, Supervisor Ronen led a tour of the Hairball, accompanied by other key public officials whose constituents are impacted by the situation. Attendees included Department of Homelessness director Jeff Kositsky, the Public Works department's Mohammed Nuru, Tilly Chang of the County Transportation Authority, and Malia Cohen, a fellow Supervisor responsible for the Bayview district, another locale affected by the poorly laid out interchange. Members of a local bicycling club also participated.

One major concern, raised by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, is the sprawling homeless community that has sprung up along the fringes of the Hairball. Videos taken by the Coalition of the camps, which block pedestrian and cycling paths, have garnered the attention of public officials. Ronen's plan is to bring down the now-antiquated overhead design of the freeway interchanges and instead opt for ground-level and subterranean connections.

County Transportation chief Chang supports the plan, but has noted the project will likely cost in the billions and take several decades to complete. Furthermore, the sheer scale of the project will require the participation of many local and state authorities, resulting in a bureaucratic nightmare as tangled as the interchange itself. Complications aside, Ronen succeeded in securing funding for a fact-finding and exploratory committee which will develop several plans to address the situation. While construction is a long ways off, Ronen's committee a step towards untangling the Hairball.


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