Who Put the Doyle in Doyle Drive?

Golden Gate link could lose a worthy namesake

San Francisco’s Doyle Drive has long been called an eyesore and one of the nations’ most dangerous roadways. The 1936 structure which connects San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge has long outlived its useful lifespan. In many ways, it’s a poor reflection of the man it’s named after.

Say the name Frank P. Doyle around Sonoma County and many will tick off his accomplishments. He’s the man who ran the Exchange Bank – a bank started by his father. He helped establish the Redwood Highway. He helped Japanese interned during World War II get their possessions back after the war. And he’s the man who sparked the idea of a bridge connecting San Francisco and Marin County.

Frank Doyle here in Santa Rosa was huge,” said Santa Rosa historian and author Gaye LeBaron.

More than a decade before the Golden Gate Bridge opened, Doyle gathered civic leaders to unleash his idea of a bridge. Fourteen years later, when the bridge opened in 1937, Doyle rode across the span in the first car. A photo shows him cutting a symbolic chain on the bridge with a blow torch. It was only fitting civic leaders name Doyle Drive for a man known as the “Father of the Golden Gate.”

These days, utter the name Doyle, and many will talk of the decrepit southern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. Federal Highway officials recently gave it a safety rating of 2 out of 100.

Now that a new project is underway to replace Doyle Drive with the Presidio Parkway, some in Sonoma County wonder if Doyle’s legend will be lost in the progress.

“I just think people take a lot of pride in the Doyle family,” said Katherine Reinhart, who runs Sonoma County’s History and Genealogy Library. “It’d be unfortunate if they were to change the name of Doyle Drive.”

Presidio Parkway spokeswoman Molly McKay says the name “Presidio Parkway” refers to design plans for the sparkling new roadway which will include grass covered car tunnels. But officially, she says the name will at least officially remain Doyle Drive. She says it would require action by the state legislature to change the name.

There are many things in Santa Rosa that still bear Doyle’s name. There is a park named for his son who died young. There is a massive new Doyle library at Santa Rosa Junior College, where a scholarship established in Doyle's 1948 will doles out millions of dollars to students each year.

And in a few years, just south of the bridge he once dreamed of, there will be a new roadway once again worthy of Doyle’s name.

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