Posey Tube and Webster Street Tube, Alameda, California
by Gary Lenhart
before 1871, when the Webster Street
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 -- amember 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 theAlameda County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution
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.
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.
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.
1923 the War Department issues a permit to the Board of Supervisors
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
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
Boosters of the Project Included:3
King, President of City Planning Commission of Alameda - Lochial became a field engineer building
of the tube.
William J. Hamilton,
Vice-president of Alaska Packers' Corporation
Wm. J. Locke,
Edw. S. Babue,
President, Alameda Chamber of Commerce
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
The marshy ground to be crossed at the Alameda entrance.
Pre-casting great sections of concrete and towing them in place and
I Fear of monoxide gas.
Problem of adequate ventilation.
The proper sealing together of the tube sections with great concrete
May 8, 1923 bonds in the amount of $4,4960,000 are
approved for the tubeby an "overwhelming majority."
(from tube dedication pamphlet dated 1928)
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)
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.
September 26, 1926 Press
photo of Alameda Estuary Tube being Floated into Place.
27, 1928, The George A. Posey Tube
is dedicated and opens to traffic...not
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. 6
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.
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
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
the tubes are reopened to traffic 24 hours a day, 7
days a week -- with only occasional closures for additional work.
Posey Tube Portal
note train tracks on right
(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,
(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
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