Cypress Street Viaduct
The Cypress Street Viaduct, often referred to as the Cypress Structure, was a 1.6 mile long, raised two-tier, multi-lane (four lanes per deck) freeway constructed of reinforced concrete that was originally part of the Nimitz Freeway ( State Highway 17, and later, Interstate 880) in Oakland, California. It replaced an earlier single-deck viaduct constructed in the 1930s as one of the approaches to the San Francisco ”“ Oakland Bay Bridge. It was located along Cypress Street between 7th Street and Interstate 80 in the West Oakland neighborhood. It officially opened to traffic on June 11, 1957 and was in use until the Loma Prieta Earthquake occurred on October 17, 1989, when much of the upper tier collapsed onto the lower tier resulting in 42 fatalities.

The double-decked viaduct was initially designed in 1949 by the City of Oakland as a way to ease traffic on local streets leading to the Bay Bridge, such as Cypress Street (which was California State Route 17 at the time). The southernmost portion of the Cypress Street viaduct, which was designed as a central offramp structure exiting at Market Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets to the Eighth Street/Seventh Street on/off ramps, was the first phase of the overall project completed in October, 1955 by contractors Frederickson and Watson at a cost of $1.7 million. Construction on the second phase of the project, the double-decked viaduct portion (which started from Adeline Street in the south to the Bay Bridge Distribution Structure in the north), began in February, 1956 by contractors Grove, Wilson, Shepard and Kruge at a cost of $8.3 million, bringing the total cost of the viaduct project to $10 million. It was touted as the first double-decked viaduct when it officially opened to traffic on June 11, 1957.

Loma Prieta Earthquake
On October 17, 1989, the portion of the structure from 16th Street north all the way to the MacArthur Maze collapsed during the Loma Prieta Earthquake, due to ground saturation and structural flaws. When it was in use, the upper tier was used by southbound traffic, and the lower tier was used by northbound traffic. Some sections of the Cypress Street Viaduct were largely supported by two columns on either side, but some sections were only supported beneath by a single supporting column. The design was unable to survive the earthquake because the upper portions of the exterior columns were not tied by reinforcing to the lower columns, and the columns were not sufficiently ringed to prevent bursting. At the time of its design, such structures were not analyzed as a whole, and it appears that large structure motion contributed to the collapse. It was built on filled land, which is highly susceptible to soil liquefaction during an earthquake and exhibits larger ground motion. After the earth stopped moving, local residents and workers began crawling into and climbing upon the shattered structure with the goal of rescuing those left alive. Many were saved; some only by amputation of trapped limbs. The collapse of the upper tier onto the lower tier resulted in 42 fatalities"two-thirds of the total quake death toll of 63 . The viaduct was torn down, Cypress Street was renamed (now known as Mandela Parkway, in honor of Nelson Mandela) with a landscaped median planted where the viaduct once stood. Before reconstruction occurred, the viaduct ended at the Eighth Street exit on the southern end, with the two roadways going over Seventh Street, while the southbound exit off the MacArthur Maze onto Cypress Street at 32nd Street remained open to local traffic on the northern end.

Reconstruction around West Oakland
In 1997, the Nimitz Freeway was rerouted to loop around the area using a largely ground-level design with more conventional single-level viaduct. The space was mainly taken from a railroad yard which was relocated. The exit at Eighth Street was eliminated, a southbound exit near Seventh and Union Street and a single northbound and southbound exit at Seventh Street, near the Port of Oakland was constructed also providing access via a frontage road to Grand Avenue and the Oakland Army Base, before a viaduct-type interchange splitting traffic to the Bay Bridge via Grand Avenue and also northbound to the Eastshore Freeway. During construction of the new section of the Nimitz Freeway, a team of archaeologists made many interesting discoveries about the people who lived in West Oakland in the 19th century.

Exit list
The following is an exit list of the former Cypress Viaduct/Nimitz Freeway prior to the Loma Prieta earthquake and subsequent demolition. The entire route was in Oakland.

Similar structures damaged by earthquakes
  • Alaskan Way Viaduct (not destroyed)
  • Central Freeway
  • Embarcadero Freeway
  • Hanshin Expressway

Interchange Notes Southern End of Viaduct ( I-880 , continued to/from Downtown Oakland and San Jose) Market Street, Harbor Terminal Southbound and Northbound exit and entrance 8th Street, Cypress Street Northbound exit 7th Street at Kirkham Street Southbound entrance 14th Street, Downtown Oakland Northbound entrance and Southbound exit Cypress Street, Peralta Street Southbound exit Cypress Street at 32nd Street Northbound entrance I-580 ”“ San Rafael Northbound exit and Southbound Entrance I-80 ”“ San Francisco, Sacramento Northbound/Westbound exit and Southbound/Eastbound Entrance Northern End of Viaduct ( I-80 / I-580 / I-880 , The MacArthur Maze)

Building Activity

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    about 6 years ago via