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The Leimert Bridge: Historical background

By Kurt Lavenson

(Click photo to enlarge)
The Leimert Bridge In 1926, developer Walter H. Leimert completed the largest structure in his new Oakmore Highlands subdivision. When finished, the Leimert Bridge, named for the boulevard it supports as well as the developer who commissioned it, was the largest single span bridge of its time. The elegantly arched structure connected Park Boulevard and Piedmont to the nearby hills, which had been isolated by Dimond Canyon on the northwest and the bed of the former Palo Seco Creek (now the Warren Freeway-Hwy 13) to the east. The new, reliable transportation route into these hills transformed them from bucolic scenery into a desirable and convenient location to live.

The Leimert Company promotional materials of the era referred to their new concrete structure as "The Bridge that Wrought a Miracle for Oakmore Highlands". From its intersection at Park Boulevard , the bridge spanned over Sausal Creek and the 325 ft Dimond Canyon. After completion it brought commuter streetcars (the Park Boulevard #18 Car Line spur off the Key System) as well as automobiles into the heart of the new business center and the residential development. The streetcar turnaround was located at the five-way intersection at the east end of the business district.

Originally christened the 'Sausal Creek Arch Bridge', it is now typically known by locals as the 'Leimert Bridge'. The structure was designed by engineer George A. Posey, who was also the Alameda County surveyor and the engineer of the Posey Tube (tunnel) connecting downtown Oakland to the island city of Alameda. The bridge is a single span, reinforced concrete structure composed of side by side arches which cross the canyon in one elegant parabolic leap. It has stood the test of time both in its structural performance and its graceful appearance. The bridge is the literal and figurative gateway to the Oakmore District of Oakland.

Some data and a brief chronology of the Leimert Bridge :

  • Owner: City of Oakland
  • Identified by the State of California as bridge # 33C-0215
  • Commonly referred to as The Leimert Bridge or the Sausal Creek Bridge
  • Completed: 1926 (begun June 1925, open for service October 1926.) Upon completion The Leimert Company formally dedicated the bridge to the City of Oakland .
  • Construction Cost: $150,000.00
  • Designer & Supervisor: George A. Posey (with a design staff headed by Bruce Jamison, a professor at UC Berkeley)
  • Structural Engineers: Earl and Wright
  • General Contractor: Park Boulevard Company (Bates & Borland)
  • Construction type: Cast in Place Concrete, reinforced with Steel. Abutment footings bear on native rock.
  • Style: Modern Arch (side by side parabolic arches) with concrete buttresses at each end
  • Span: 357 feet total (the arch is 170 feet)
  • Height: 117 feet total (the arch is 50 feet)
  • When completed it was the largest single span concrete arch bridge of the time.
  • 2,600 cubic yards (yd3) of concrete
  • 400,000 lbs of reinforcing steel
  • Purpose: Access for auto, streetcar, pedestrian traffic as well as utility pipes & wires.
  • The electric streetcar power lines & poles were converted in 1947 for street lighting.
  • The bridge was elevated to landmark status in 1980 by the City of Oakland Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board , in Resolution #1980-8. (much of the historic information here is gleaned from that resolution)
  • An Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey dated September 30, 1997 declared the bridge to have 'excellent' integrity and called it a prominent engineering feature on the Oakland landscape.
  • In September of 2002 the Oakland Heritage Alliance provided plaques and staged an official dedication ceremony, in conjunction with the Oakmore Homes Association, to celebrate the 20+ years of historic status of the bridge. The ceremony was attended by Mayor Jerry Brown, State Assembly member Wilma Chan and City Council member Dick Spees.
    A procession of historic Packard automobiles then crossed the bridge and heralded an open house tour of ten historic homes in the neighborhood.
  • In 1997 the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) Local Seismic Safety Retrofit Program (LSSRP) designated the bridge for seismic upgrade work. The retrofit project also includes the Park Boulevard viaduct (the concrete structure along the southeast edge of Park Blvd , at the top of the Sausal Creek slope, north of the Leimert Bridge ). The retrofit strengthening work is only mandated to satisfy “no collapse” criteria.
  • The retrofit program involves 11 bridges throughout Oakland . It is funded 80% by the Federal Highway Administration under their Federal Highway and Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement Program (HBRRP). CalTrans administers the program via the State Seismic Retrofit Program. The City of Oakland will manage the actual construction work.

Photo Gallery - Click for larger images

Oakmore Homes Area Area Map
Liemert Bridge Original Bridge Plans
Trolley on the Bridge Early Bridge Construction
Leimert Bridge Early Bridge Construction
Oakmore Highlands Limert Bridge Plaque

Many thanks to the Oakland Heritage Alliance, The Oakland History Room, Bosko’s Photography, The City of Oakland Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board and the State of California Department of Parks & Recreation Resource Agency for the historic information, drawings and photographs used here.

July 18, 2005

The Leimert Bridge : Seismic retrofit update & recent events

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