Cypress Street Viaduct
March-April 1958 California Highways and Public Works
(public domain)

Cypress Street Viaduct
March-April 1958 California Highways and Public Works
(public domain)
Built and Planned Freeways
March-April 1958 California Highways and Public Works
(public domain)

The Cypress Structure (the Cypress Street Viaduct) was a two-tiered portion of the Nimitz Freeway which ran through West Oakland to the MacArthur Maze (also known as the distribution structure). The March-April 1958 edition of California Highways and Public Works described the viaduct thusly:

... two contracts were completed in 1957, providing 2.1 miles of elevated, double-decked freeway structure through this commercial and industrial area of Oakland along Cypress Street. Opposing traffic travels on separate levels of this viaduct.  Four lanes are provided for each direction of travel, and in addition, the former highway (Cypress Street) has been reconstructed at surface level along both sides of the freeway, thereby supplying a divided arterial street for use of local traffic.  Work on both contracts was performed by the firm of Grove, Sheppard, Wilson and Kruge of California, Inc., at an estimated cost of $8.551,000 for construction.  Landscaping of the entire portion of this freeway between Sixth Street and the distribution structure is contemplated, and $40,000 is included in the 1958-1959 budget for such work.

The viaduct had originally opened for traffic on June 11, 1957, with ceremonies sponsored by the Alameda County Highway Advisory Committee. The July-August 1957 edition of California Highways and Public Works contained an article entitled "A First; Initial Double-deck Freeway in Oakland is Opened" about the ceremonies. The article noted that a crowd of "200 citizens, mayors, city managers and civic group representatives of Alameda County together with state officials" attended the dedication and ribbon cutting. The ribbon was cut by Oakland Mayor Clifford Rishell and Alameda County Supervisor Chester Stanley.

July-August 1957 California Highways and Public Works
(public domain)
July-August 1957 California Highways and Public Works
(public domain)
July-August 1957 California Highways and Public Works
(public domain)


On the afternoon of October 17, 1989 , a section of the structure collapsed during the Loma Prieta Earthquake, killing 42 people who were in cars or trucks on the Cypress Structure when the earthquake hit.

West Oakland residents were the first to respond, using whatever ladders and ropes were on hand to bravely climb up into the rubble in heroic efforts to rescue those who were trapped inside.

The Cypress Structure collapse, West Oakland, California, October 17, 1989 1Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake October 17, 1989. Oakland. Support column failure and collapsed upper deck on the Cypress viaduct of Interstate 880. Slide III-5, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 90-547. (govt pic in public domain)

List of Victims (Partial at this time)

  1. Donna Marsden (UCSF Hospital Administrator / Vanpool Passenger - age 36)
  2. Delores Ardoin Stewart UCSF Administrative Assistant / Vanpool Passenger - age 48)
  3. Lanna Lee (UCSF Radiologic Technologist - ACC / Vanpool Passenger - age 43)
  4. Martha Joy Edstrom (Horticulturalist at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco / Vanpool Passenger - age 45)
  5. Raymonde Beauregard-Sund (UCSF Personnel Analyst / Vanpool Passenger - age 42)
  6. James Hansen (WWII B-29 mechanic; State Shingle Co. General Manager - age 64)
  7. Melissa E. Maxwell (Deputy District Attorney - age 32)
  8. Petra Berumen (age 25, was driving with her good friend, Yolanda Orozco, and her two children Cathy (8); and Julio (6), both of whom were rescued, though Julio's leg was amputated, and Cathy suffered serious head injuries)
  9. Yolanda Orozco (passenger with Petra Berumen)
  10. Ramzi Farid Asfour (BankAmerica Corp. Investment Counselor - age 50)
  11. Ray L. Holmes (Vickerman Zachary Miller Structural Engineer - age 50)
  12. Timothy Moss (Pacific Bell Administrative Sales Manager - age 40)
  13. Juan Daniel Luis Rubi (Sunroof installer - age 28)
  14. Vinh Phu (Automobile Mechanic - age 32; his wife Mary, and children Ivan (13) Jimmy (9) and Jenny (6) survived, though Jenny and Mary were injured


The Cypress Structure was demolished and after years of debate, in its place a landscaped median, Mandela Parkway, named in honor of South African Nelson Mandela, was installed in remembrance of the Loma Prieta tragedy. There is also the Cypress Freeway Memorial Park, which includes a sculpture and mural remembering the event.

Archaeology of Replacement Project

Two books at AAMLO describe the archaeological research design and treatment plan before the replacement of the structure:

  1. Pape, Janet. I-880 Cypress Replacement Project In Oakland & Emeryville: Archeological Research Design & Treatment Plan. Vol II: Prehistoric Archaeology. California Department of Transportation: 1995.
  2. Praetzellis, Mary. West Oakland- A Place to Start From: Research Design and Treatment Plan Cypress 1-880 Replacement Project. Volume 1: Historical Archaeology. Anthropological Studies Center: 1994.

The part of the Cypress freeway structure in Oakland, California, that stood on soft mud (dashed red line) collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, killing 42 people. 2


There is an extremely moving first hand account of the Cypress Structure collapse by the three survivors in the University of California at San Francisco campus van, Cathi Scarpa, Judy Jester and Meg Fitzpatrick, as well as interviews with relatives and loved ones of the victims, and  Robert ``Raven'' Majors, one of the neighborhood residents who heroically rescued three of the collapse victims. The newspaper article is entitled "Earthquake 1989 Aftershocks -- A Year Later, Most Injuries Have Healed But Much Of The Pain Remains." 3

Additional Links/References

  1. OAKLAND / Park rises from freeway rubble / Victims, heroes of ’89 collapse to be honored with memorial SFGate
  2. Progress Toward a Safer Future sin the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake: Ground Shaking and Building Codes USGS 
  3. Earthquake 1989 Aftershocks -- A Year Later, Most Injuries Have Healed But Much Of The Pain Remains.