Banning of trucks on (and major pollution from) a highway

The high levels of asthma in the neighborhoods around the I-880 freeway, which carries the highest volume of trucks in the San Francisco Bay Area, stem from the trucks emission of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. Truck traffic along the I-880 worsened significantly when trucks were banned on the nearby I-580, which runs through the predominantly white Oakland Hills.

Special Route Restriction History – Route 580

This weight restriction is an 8.7-mile segment of Route 580 from Foothill Blvd. in San Leandro to Grand Ave. in Oakland (PM 34.89 to 43.76 in Alameda County).

Restriction: “No trucks over 9,000 pounds, except passenger buses and paratransit vehicles.”


1951 – Truck traffic is prohibited on MacArthur Blvd.

1963 – Oakland City Ordinance #6789 passed June 13, 1963, amending Sections 205 and 206 of the Oakland Traffic Code. This ordinance prohibited vehicles exceeding 4.5 tons, except for passenger buses and stages. The ordinance included a provision placing the ban in effect until January 1, 1968, pending approval of the federal Bureau of Public Roads (now known as the Federal Highway Administration – “FHWA”) and the California Sate Department of Public Works, Division of Highways (now known as the Department of Transportation – “Caltrans”), unless repealed by the City Council of Oakland.

1963 – This ban was approved by Caltrans and FHWA when 580 was constructed (approximately 1962-1964), in part because there was a pre-existing truck prohibition in this corridor before the freeway was built. Secondary issues included a four percent grade which would add to congestion and noise. The ban was to continue until January 1, 1968.

1965 – The new segment of I-580 was completed and open to traffic.

1967 – The Cities of Oakland, Piedmont, and San Leandro, and the County of Alameda sent a request to then-Governor Reagan to renew the State’s approval of the truck ban.

1967 – The Department conducted an extensive study to verify that an alternate route, Routes 238 and 880, was available for use by trucks. The study concluded that, from a traffic engineering standpoint, there was no strong evidence either to retain or to terminate the truck ban. So the truck ban was retained. According to the report, two factors justified retaining the ban: (1) the longstanding ban of trucks in the area, and (2) no hardship or added cost would result in the diversion of “through” trucks at this location. The report recommended the approval of the truck ban be extended indefinitely. However, the Department intended to review the operations of the alternate routes, 238 and 880, periodically to determine the desirability of continuing the ban.

1968-1972 – This review occurred annually until 1972 when HQ Traffic informed the District that future reviews were unnecessary.

1982 – The federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) passed, which transferred the authority over truck bans on the National Truck Network from Caltrans to the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT).

1990 – After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, some trucks began using I-580 for emergency purposes and/or due to increased congestion on I-880. Oakland residents complained to their elected representatives. The California Highway Patrol increased enforcement of the ban.

1990 – The California Trucking Association (CTA) proposed to study lifting the ban as part of Caltrans District 4’s I-880 corridor study. Caltrans District 4 refused to add this study due to strong local opposition.

1996 – In December, the CTA requested that Caltrans perform the “periodic” review intended by the 1967 study.

1997 – Caltrans determined that a “reverse” truck ban would require the same steps as a truck ban, that is, local agency support (Cities of Oakland and San Leandro, and Alameda County); a traffic study to evaluate traffic, safety, noise, and air quality impacts; an environmental document; a public hearing; and also federal approval, because of the 1982 STAA re. truck bans on interstates.

1999 – Caltrans District 4 proposed to Caltrans HQ that the district initiate the study, and invite the City of Oakland, the Alameda Couty Congestion Management Agency (CMA), and the CTA to participate. They proposed that, if the study results were favorable towards lifting the ban, and IF the City of Oakland was not opposed based on the report data, then Caltrans would proceed to the California Transportation Commission (CTC). HQ concurred.

1999 – On May 11, the Oakland City Council passed Resolution No. 74985 affirming the prohibition of trucks on the I-580 Freeway in Oakland. On the same date, several members of the California legislature wrote to Caltrans requesting that they abandon the study proposal.

1999 – On June 30, Caltrans wrote to the City of Oakland that, as of this date, there are no plans or resources allocated to perform the study.

1999-2000 – On 2/18/99, the California Legislature introduced Assembly Bill 500 to place the I-580 truck ban into the California Vehicle Code (CVC). The bill was chaptered on 8/10/2000, and codified as CVC Section 35655.5.

California Vehicle Code

A portion of the CVC section is copied below:

35655.5. (a) “… no vehicle, as described in Sections 410 and 655, with a gross weight of 9,000 pounds or more, shall be operated on the segment of Interstate Route 580 … between Grand Avenue in the City of Oakland and the city limits of the City of San Leandro. This subdivision does not apply to passenger buses or paratransit vehicles. 
(b) The Department of Transportation shall erect suitable signs at each end of the portion of highway described in subdivision (a) and at any other points that the department deems necessary to give adequate notice of the weight limit imposed under this section.”

Note 1: Section 410 defines a “motor truck.” Section 655 defines a “truck tractor.”

Note 2: The CVC ends the restriction at the city limits of the City of San Leandro. This location is essentially at the Foothill Blvd. off-ramp where westbound trucks must exit 580.

Truck Ban on National Network

I-580 is the only Interstate Freeway in the Bay Area not open to trucks. It is supposed to be part of the National Network, which requires that STAA vehicles be allowed. (For a graphic description of STAA vehicles, see the green trucks on the Truck Map Legend (PDF) .) According to the FHWA, I-580 is exempt from the National Network under the “grandfather” provision, because the ban existed prior to January 6, 1983, the day the 1982 STAA became law.

However, the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 23, Section 658.11(d)(2) allows states to restrict the use of interstates with appropriate justification. The analysis must include a consideration of safety, interstate commerce impacts, alternate routes, and local consultation.

** excerpt from

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1967, “We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power…this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together…you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others…the whole structure of American life must be changed.” of Change in Environmental Justice · LISTEN: Regan Patterson on transportation justice

Dr. King’s words implore us to develop transportation solutions that go beyond electrification and the comfort of single-occupancy vehicles. Transportation justice means reimagining and restructuring our communities in a manner that does not replicate capitalist extraction and systems of oppression, but addresses root causes of inequity, redistributes public goods, and uplifts people power.

Justice necessitates reparation for racial injustice and asserts the right to self-determination, as stated by Principle 5 of the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice that were developed by grassroot organizers at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. Our transportation system must be redesigned through inclusive planning processes and with the goal of reparative justice.

Across the nation, local and state governments have initiated freeway teardown projects with the explicit intentions of redressing historical injustice, reconnecting communities, and increasing physical and economic mobility. For example, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and local community members are developing a vision for alternatives to I-94 that will serve the neighborhoods disconnected by the highway.

The freeway teardown movement has even made its way to federal legislation. In March 2021, President Biden released The American Jobs Plan, which proposes $20 billion for projects that reconnect neighborhoods that were divided by freeway construction and advance equity. In April 2021, Democratic senators introduced The Reconnecting Communities Act, which would establish U.S. Department of Transportation grants to fund community engagement and projects to remove or retrofit freeway infrastructure, including funds for community land trusts.

The success of these projects hinges upon the co-creation of a new decision-making process that is guided by a principle of community ownership and centers Black lives and livelihoods. Furthermore, it requires that overall, infrastructure and transportation legislature deprioritize automobiles, even electric, given that they rely on the same infrastructures of harm—freeways.

I urge researchers to advocate for comprehensive solutions that help dismantle systems of oppression and support self-determined communities. One critical form of advocacy is providing data and evidence that support community-built solutions. These include specific actions, such as halting freeway expansions, tearing down freeways, and expanding access to police-free and fare-free transit, as well as comprehensive Black visions of climate and environmental justice.

Research must support community visions for healthy and livable Black futures.

regan patterson

Dr. Regan F. Patterson is the Transportation Equity Research Fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), where she conducts intersectional transportation policy analysis and research. She earned her M.S./Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. In her environmental activism, Dr. Patterson asserts there is no justice without reparations. Feel free to reach her via Twitter @Regan_Felice.

This essay was produced through the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice fellowship. Agents of Change empowers emerging leaders from historically excluded backgrounds in science and academia to reimagine solutions for a just and healthy planet.