Incredible Transbay Tube construction photos

The 1956 Bay Area Rapid Transit master plan was full of high hopes and soon-to-be-failed dreams: BART cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Whisper-quiet trains arriving every 90 seconds. Stations as far away as Santa Rosa, Napa and Fairfield.

But the part of the plan that sounded most like science fiction actually happened.

“The heart of the rapid transit system recommended for the Bay Area by 1962 is its electric train tube linking downtown San Francisco and downtown Oakland,” The Chronicle reported on Jan. 6, 1956. “The tube beneath the Bay … would avert the necessity for a costly second Bay Bridge.”

With a growing majority of Bay Area residents born after the construction of the BART Transbay Tube, it’s easy to take the engineering marvel for granted. But a trip through The Chronicle archive — which details every victory, setback and tube joint filled with squirming crabs — adds perspective.

They built a transit line. At the bottom of the sea.

Here’s the tale of that miracle of engineering’s planning, construction and debut, as told in archive stories and images:

The 1956 transit planning report gave two options for connecting San Francisco and Oakland: a $5.8 million “minimum plan” that would send BART over the Bay Bridge, and the “optimum plan,” an underground tube costing $73 million.

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