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Walnut Creek Magazine


Nov 23, 2020 12:08PM ● By Pam Kessler

(Photograph: 1953 Main Street & Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Walnut Creek, California)

City officials struggled with traffic on downtown streets, which surged in 1951, after the opening of the Broadway Plaza Shopping Center. Main Street doubled as a highway for the steady stream of cars headed to the shopping plaza from Danville and Concord, which often came to a standstill on Saturdays and weekday afternoons. Community leaders acknowledged that street design was a primary cause of bottlenecks in the heart of the downtown.

In 1954, the council drafted the $2 million Little Master Plan – a blueprint for street and traffic improvements—designed to relieve gridlock and open the downtown for additional retail expansion. As part of the plan, the council considered creating one-way streets, but local merchants opposed the idea. As sales tax revenue increased from $6 million a year in 1947 to a staggering $20 million by 1955, voters approved a $2 million bond measure to fund the Little Master Plan.  Construction began in 1957 and brought about the creation of a new thoroughfare—Broadway—and the extensions of Cypress and Mt. Diablo to intersect with it. Broadway was built upon a concrete culvert that channeled the waters of Walnut Creek beneath it.

The city’s congestion also sparked calls for the construction of a new freeway, which finally began in 1957. Three years and $8.5 million later, the long-anticipated state highway (24/680) opened in 1960, marking a major transportation milestone for the East Bay and commuters to San Francisco. 

 *Source: “Walnut Creek An Illustrated History” by Brad Rovanpera

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