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Great Highway

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Great Highway
The Great Highway, San Francisco, California, looking south from Sutro Heights.jpg
The Great Highway, San Francisco, California, looking south from Sutro Heights
Length3.5 mi (5.6 km)
LocationSan Francisco
Coordinates37°45′02″N 122°30′31″W / 37.7506°N 122.5086°W / 37.7506; -122.5086Coordinates: 37°45′02″N 122°30′31″W / 37.7506°N 122.5086°W / 37.7506; -122.5086
North endPoint Lobos Avenue
South endSkyline Boulevard

The Great Highway is a road in San Francisco that forms the city's western edge along the Pacific coast. Built in 1929, it runs for approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km) next to Ocean Beach.[1] Its southern end is at Skyline Boulevard (State Route 35) near Lake Merced; it extends to Point Lobos Avenue and the Cliff House at its northern end. In 2020 a portion of the road was closed to vehicular traffic, opening back to traffic in 2021 during weekdays.


The road closed to motor vehicles in January 2021

The Great Highway is a four-lane divided road built in 1929 that is approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long and runs next to the Pacific Ocean along to Ocean Beach on the west side of San Francisco. The Great Highway starts at Skyline Boulevard and runs north to Point Lobos Avenue and the Cliff House in the Outer Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco. It forms the western border of Golden Gate Park with two windmills, the Dutch Windmill and the Murphy Windmill at the northwestern and southwestern corners of the park along the highway. Both windmills were built to pump water into Golden Gate Park.

As a north–south throughway, this section of the highway does not provide access to destinations in the nearby Sunset neighborhood, other than Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard. It is an expressway not designed for local traffic, so a parallel street named Lower Great Highway is immediately adjacent to the east of the expressway. This street has residential dwellings on one side and a mixed use trail running parallel between the two streets. It is adorned with stop signs and speed bumps on every block.[2] During the Hot Rod era of the 1950s-60s, it was a popular destination for owners of modified cars and others who wished to engage in rolling drag races.

The southernmost portion of the highway, Great Highway Extension from Sloat Boulevard to California State Route 35, is slated to close to vehicle traffic permanently starting in 2023 as part of the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Project, to be replaced with a multi-use pathway and seawall protections for city wastewater infrastructure.[3]

The N Judah, a San Francisco Municipal Railway streetcar line, ends at Great Highway and Judah, while the L Taraval, another streetcar line, ends two blocks from Great Highway at Wawona and 46th Avenue.

Closure and reopening

In April 2020, two miles (55%) of the Great Highway was closed to motorized vehicles, causing some people to refer to the new pedestrian-only segment as the "Great Walkway".[4] City officials claim that the closure attracted an average of 26,400 weekly pedestrian and bike visitors,[5] versus 140,000 vehicles per week passing through when it was open to motorized traffic.[6] This would make it the second most visited open space in the city after Golden Gate Park.[7]

The Great Walkway covered with sand in May 2021

One city survey of 4,000 San Francisco residents found 53% of respondents supported making the closure to motor vehicles permanent,[8] while a petition got over 11,000 signatures to reopen the highway to cars.[9] Prior to the motor vehicle closure, the roadway was closed an average of 27 times a year for sand removal and flooding.[10]

In August 2021, three westside San Francisco supervisors and Mayor London Breed announced a new operational plan for the Great Highway. The plan opened the Great Highway to motor vehicle traffic on weekdays, while keeping it as a park on weekends and holidays. This announcement short-circuited a separate and ongoing planning process by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to plan for the long-term future of the space, causing some protests.[11][12][13]

See also


  1. ^ Lee, Fiona (28 September 2020). "How the Great Highway became San Francisco's most unexpected promenade". SFGate. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  2. ^ Knight, Heather. "S.F's beloved Great Highway car closure at risk as drivers race through Sunset's quiet streets". San Francisco Chronicle (17 November 2020). Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  3. ^ "Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Project". San Francisco Recreation & Parks. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  4. ^ Knight, Heather (2020-05-16). "Closed roads. Shared golf courses. Computers for kids. Bright spots of SF's shelter-in-place should last forever". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2021-08-15.
  5. ^ "Great Highway Concepts Evaluation Report" (PDF). San Francisco County Transportation Authority. p. 10. Retrieved 28 July 2021. From October 2020 to March 2021, the Upper Great Highway had on average 3,200 weekday bicycle and pedestrian users and 5,200 weekend day users (see Figure 7). This is about 26,400 weekly visitors
  6. ^ "Great Highway to reopen on weekdays, sparking renewed debate". The San Francisco Examiner. 2021-08-05. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  7. ^ "Information and discussion regarding staff update and community input on the current use of the Great Highway;" (PDF). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. p. 4. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  8. ^ Graf, Carly (29 March 2021). "Closing Upper Great Highway for good is popular, survey finds". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Appeal seeks to block reopening of the Great Highway to cars". 48 hills. 2021-08-14. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  10. ^ "Like It Or Not: The Great Highway Will Change". Here/Say Media. 3 February 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  11. ^ "City Reveals Next Phase for Great Highway to Start August 16". SF Mayor's Office.
  12. ^ "Sup. Gordon Mar Calls for Cars to be Allowed Back on Great Highway, But in a 'Hybrid' Compromise". SFist. 9 July 2021.
  13. ^ "S.F.'s Great Highway will reopen to cars on weekdays". San Francisco Chronicle. 6 August 2021.