Posey Tube and Webster Street Tube, Alameda, California
by Gary Lenhart

From before 1871, when the Webster Street drawbridge from Alameda to Oakland across the San Antonio creek was completed, until 1928 when the Posey tube opened, the crossing from Alameda to Oakland at Webster Street was made by a bridge.

In 1908 United States Senator Frick toured the East Bay with M. Kelley -- a member of the Alameda County board of supervisors. On his visit Senator Frick suggested to Kelley the idea of developing the estuary. Almost immediately Kelley introduced a resolution to the board of Supervisors to appropriate money for an estuary tube and removal of the estuary bridges.1
 
On August 31, 1908 the Alameda County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking the county surveyor to submit an estimate cost. The board finds out that the state has no provision for such an expense, and the issue of the tube is shelved, although it continues to get brought up intermittently.

In 1919, Mr. Lochiel M. King, President of City Planning Commission, agitates the matter of building a tube and the project is brought to the attention of the Board of Supervisors again.
 
1921, Carl E. Storm, president of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce, calls a community meeting of the chamber of commerce  to boost the tube project. Speakers include "Drydock" Smith, eminent engineer. Smith declares, "building the tube using concrete sections is readily feasible." Other speakers include Lochiel King and Supervisor Hamilton.2

April 5, 1922, The Board of Supervisors of Alameda County call for a bond election for the construction of a vehicular tube.
 
August 21, 1922, The Board of Supervisors of Alameda County pass a resolution directing the County Surveyor, George A Posey, to prepare a preliminary cost and construction report.

March 23, 1923 the War Department issues a permit to the Board of Supervisors of Alameda County to construct a tunnel under the Alameda-Oakland estuary. The Harrison St Bridge and Webster St Bridge are ordered to be removed.

April 5, 1923 George Posey submits a preliminary tube report to the Board of Supervisors.
 

The day before the bond election on May 7, 1923 the "Tube-the-Estuary" committee gets a front page story in the Oakland Tribune. The story is called "Last Appeal For Tube". The advantages of a tube they point to include the opinion that, "The best bridge will become obsolete in 20 years, while a tube lasts indefinitely." George Posey offers his opinion that the tube, "would prove an aid, rather than an injury, to property values."

That same day, on May 7, 1923 The Alaska Packers' Association announces plans for a $2 million plant to be built in Alameda --  but only if the tube bond issue is passed. (Oakland Tribune, 5/07/1923)
 


George A. Posey
Chief Engineer, and County Surveyor
 


Lochiel M. King
Construction Engineer
 

Engineering Personnel
Posey Tube
 

The Boosters of the Project Included:3

  • Lochiel M. King, President of City Planning Commission of Alameda - Lochial became a field engineer building of the tube.

  • William J. Hamilton, Supervisor

  • A.K. Tichenor, Vice-president of Alaska Packers' Corporation

  • Wm. J. Locke, City Attorney

  • Edw. S. Babue, President, Alameda Chamber of Commerce

  • Al Latham, City Councilman

  • Walter G. Tibbets

  • "Drydock" Smith - Smith became engineer of construction for the California Bridge & Tunnel Co.4

Some of the Doubters' Concerns Included:5
I Formation of the inner harbor floor.
I The marshy ground to be crossed at the Alameda entrance. (maps)
I Pre-casting great sections of concrete and towing them in place and sinking them.
I Fear of monoxide gas.
I Problem of adequate ventilation.
I The proper sealing together of the tube sections with great concrete collars.
 
May 8, 1923 bonds in the amount of $4,4960,000 are approved for the tube by an "overwhelming majority." (from tube dedication pamphlet dated 1928)

The day following the election, on May 9, 1923 The Alaska Packers' Association announces that construction of the $2,000,000 rail and ship terminal in Alameda, estuary, which was contingent on the tube bond being approved, will begin within two weeks. Plans provide for seven great piers and wharves, and nine one-story warehouses. "Facilities will be provided for canning, packing and storing of all kinds of Pacific coast and Hawaiian food products, including fruit, vegetables, sauces and catsups, and the annual salmon pack of the Alaska association."  (Oakland Tribune 5/09/1923)
 

September 1923 to January 1925 - planning phase of project.

Construction: Pre-cast segments (reinforced concrete) were made at Hunters Point dry dock in San Francisco. These were floated (tugged) across the bay to the tube site, sank into a trench, sealed together, and then covered with fill that was dredged from the bay.(9)

The California Bridge and Tunnel Company were the general contractors major portion of the work.

Alameda County Board of Supervisors decide to name the tube The George A Posey Tube.
 

October 27, 1928, The George A. Posey Tube is dedicated and opens to traffic...not in 1927, as this "Historic Bridge" sign posted at the entrance of the tube today so prominently displays. Was it the fact that the the tube opened on Oct 27th that caused the confusion between 1927 and 1928? The plaque behind the sign, (click picture at the right to make it bigger) which can now barely be noticed driving into the tube, gives the correct date -- 1928.
 
November 30, 1928 Alameda County auctions the Webster Street Bridge -- 980 feet long, steel, swing-span rim-bearing type, cantilever construction to Sacramento County for just $3,100. The bridge had been erected just 2 years earlier at a cost of $134,000. While the tube was being built a ship rammed into the Webster Street bridge and caused it severe damage, making it unusable. With no crossing at Webster Street, the merchants along Webster Street suffered an immense loss in business -- and so the Webster Street Bridge was rebuilt -- even as the tube was being constructed.
 
Sadly, on August 3, 1932 (during the depression) George Posey committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide from car fumes in his garage at his home in Oakland. An Alameda County Superior Court Jury had just recommended an investigation into his office (he was the Alameda County Surveyor) the day before he took his life. The investigation was due to work Posey had done for some real estate men who were convicted of running a "free lot" real estate racket.
 
In 1963 The Webster Street Tube was completed using the same design technique as the Posey Tube.8  It was a Ben C. Gerwick, Inc. construction joint venture.7
April 24, 2000, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)  begins the Seismic Retrofit construction Posey and Webster Tubes, in order to strengthen them for a "major earthquake".  During the construction, which lasted for over three years, both tubes were (usually) closed  from Sunday through Thursday between 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM, forcing people to use alternate routes to and from Alameda (such as the Park Street Bridge). Getting home before 9:00 PM became an issue for some people living West side of Alameda, to avoid the much longer route home.

October 31, 2003, the tubes are reopened to traffic 24 hours a day, 7 days a week -- with only occasional closures for additional work.
 

 


 

 


Posey Tube Portal
in Alameda
mailed 1948
 

Posey Tube
Alameda Portal
note train tracks on right

Posey Tube
Oakland Side

 

 

 


notes:
(1) Alameda Times-Star. Tube Beginning Told by Kelley, Oct 28, 1928
(2) Alameda Times-Star. Estuary Tunnel Masterpiece of Man's Ingenuity, Oct. 28, 1928
(3)
Alameda Co CA Board of Supervisors. Formal Opening and Dedication of George A. Posey Tube,
Oct 27,1928
(4) Alameda Times-Star. Estuary Tunnel Masterpiece of Man's Ingenuity, Oct. 28, 1928
(5) Alameda Times-Star. Estuary Tunnel Masterpiece of Man's Ingenuity, Oct. 28, 1928

(6) SF Examiner. 12/1/1928
(7) Ben C Gerwick Inc. Seismic Retrofit at Posey Tube and Webster St Tube, May, 1997
     http://www.gerwick.com/project-detail.asp?ProjectID=296

(8) CalTrans website, no longer available
(9) CalTrans website, no longer available

 

Continue to Webster Street Bridge

 








 

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