Backstage At The Caldecott Tunnel

When you’re a Montclarion, the Caldecott Tunnel is an omnipresent beast.  You constantly drive over, around or through the tunnel – and know the bores quite well.

However there’s a seldom-seen backstage for tunnel operations.  Much like a theater, Supervisor Doug LaVallee and other Caltrans workers monitor the stage for air circulation and traffic.  Check out Inside Bay Area’s video and article, which are interesting.

In the video, the supervisor explains how the tunnel operations work and walks through all the backstage areas.  He opens the stage door, where the traffic is whipping along.  Plus you glimpse the barrier changes, when traffic directions are switched that day.

Caldecott Tunnel Video

History and Growth:

These tunnels have been part of the landscape for a long time.  The Caldecott’s original two bores opened in 1937 and replaced the rickety hillside tunnel built in 1909.  The third bore was added in 1964, to accommodate the growing East Bay population headed to Oakland and San Francisco.

In the intervening years, BART was constructed and these trains accommodate many commuters.  Yet auto traffic still creeps along the Rt. 24 freeway, and Caldecott’s one of the best-known traffic jams in the Bay Area.  We’re so proud to hear the radio reports weekdays!

Plans for a fourth bore have been shaping up for years, and are slated to begin during 2009.  Some $420 million of funding has been secured from a mix of agencies and bonds, at least the last we knew.  Here’s how the eastbound approach looks today and would appear with an additional bore.

Caldecott Before And After

Construction Matters:

Montclarions are rightfully concerned about the disruption underneath our proverbial feet, when drilling starts up.  There are mixed feelings about whether the State authorities have done a sufficient job with construction mitigation.

Many locals, who live north of the tunnel, organized as the Fourth Bore Coalition to file suit and push for additional environment review.  They are worried about noise pollution and its impact on local schools, among other matters.

By contrast, local press wants the construction to proceed without delay.  The Contra Costa Times called this a nuisance lawsuit.  The Oakland Tribune felt the bore should proceed as well, when the suit was filed.  We await the judge’s ruling this month.

Regardless, the fourth bore is a done deal.  Whenever the Caldecott construction finally begins, this new bore will be a mostly underground and slow-moving project.  It’s expected to take five years, and open sometime in 2014.

More info:   The California Dept of Transportation has a tunnel site devoted to all its construction plans, and you can spend hours reading here.  The Fourth Bore Coalition has filed a brief here, which seeks additional assessments.