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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 Americans Adopt the Auto Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s People on the Move Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction The Container System At Work on the Waterfront Negotiating Change Transforming the Landscape
17: Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960–1970

Transforming the Landscape

Container operations transformed commercial ports. Suddenly a port needed acres of flat land for storing containers. And direct links with overland transportation were vital. San Francisco’s harbor had served the region well since the gold rush, but its hilly landscape and its distance from major rail systems were disadvantages in the container revolution.

Across the bay, Oakland had plenty of flat land for storage, was served by three railroads, and had trucking facilities nearby. By 1970, it had eclipsed San Francisco as the region’s leading port.

-The Port of Oakland, 1935
-The Port of Oakland, 1935
The Southern Pacific Mole, extending into the Bay, connected ships with a national rail network.
The Port of Oakland, 1968
The Port of Oakland, 1968

In 1960, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) began constructing its interurban rail system and built a transbay tube under the mole. BART cleared the mole of buildings, constructed a long dike in the bay, and filled the 140-acre enclosure with excavated material. Oakland’s first new container complex opened on this filled land in 1968.

The Port of Oakland, 2000
The Port of Oakland, 2000
Marine terminals cover more than 600 acres and stretch over four miles of waterfront. Thirty-two container cranes tower over the shore, handling 98 percent of the containerized cargo moving through the Bay Area.
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