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Caldecott Tunnel's Fourth Bore Opens to Traffic

November 2013

Local, regional, state and federal officials gathered at the eastern portal of the new Caldecott Fourth Bore this afternoon to cut a ceremonial ribbon and unveil the kid-designed decorative medallions that grace both the east and west portals of the new tunnel. But the aspect of the event that got the biggest reaction was an announcement by Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty that the facility would open to traffic somewhat earlier than expected: sometime Saturday morning, November 16, 2013. The crowd of 200-plus erupted into cheers of approval.

The opening date and time were predicated on the new bore passing muster with fire officials, who have been conducting intensive testing of fire safety systems over the last week. The tunnel was finally cleared for opening just a few hours before the event.

For the 160,000 daily commuters who traverse the Caldecott Tunnel complex along State Route 24, relief from traffic jams can't come fast enough. With the opening of the new bore, there will be two dedicated tunnels in each direction, and the 50-year-old practice of manually reversing the flow of traffic twice per day along the middle bore will become a thing of the past.

"By improving the reliability, predictability and safety of travel between Contra Costa and Alameda counties, the new Fourth Bore will not only boost the quality of life for thousands of commuters each day, it will improve the competitiveness of Bay Area businesses — and improve regional air quality by reducing the number of idling vehicles stuck in traffic," said Orinda Mayor Amy Rein Worth, who was also representing MTC and the Bay Area Toll Authority, both of which she chairs.

Headlining the event was US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, who said the project is a marqee element of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Also participating were U.S. Congressman George Miller; California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier; California Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner and Joan Buchanan; James Ghielmetti, chair of the California Transportation Commission; Janet Abelson and Randall Iwasaki, chair and exective director, respectively, of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority; and Scott Haggerty, chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission and an MTC/BATA commissioner.

Several of the speakers noted that the project came in on time and under budget thanks to a strong partnership between Alameda and Contra Costa counties along with Caltrans, MTC/BATA and the Federal Highway Administration.

Once the speeches were over, it was time for the highlight of the event: the unveiling of the six hexagonal medallions, which pay homage to the Art Deco medallions decorating the original 1937 bores. The designs were selected in a competition involving children from Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and all six winning artists were on hand at the event. The children first unveiled posters depicting their designs, which celebrate the Caldecott Tunnel and its natural setting, with imagery of the sun a recurring element. Then the crowd moved to the portal, where officials yanked on cords to release drapes covering the actual medallions and cut a ceremonial ribbon across the tunnel entrance.

The fourth bore has been designated as a regional lifeline structure and is designed to reopen to emergency traffic within 72 hours of a major earthquake. State-of-the art fire and life safety systems have been installed to detect and suppress fires while protecting the travelling public. The third and fourth bores are also linked by seven passageways allowing people to safely escape on foot during emergencies. A new operations and maintenance facility will be the “nerve center” for the four Caldecott tunnels, as well as the Webster-Posey Tubes in Alameda County.

The four-year, $417 million project was the recipient of one of the largest Recovery Act grants ($194 million) in the nation and has been at the center of efforts in the Bay Area for economic recovery and jobs creation. Proposition 1B, a 2006 voter-approved state transportation bond, provided $11 million for the project. The Contra Costa Transportation Authority contributed approximately $125 million of local transportation sales tax dollars generated by Measure J, passed by Contra Costa voters in 2004 — more than a quarter of the project budget. The remaining funding came from Regional Measure 2 bridge toll funding, which is overseen by MTC.

Since 1964, when the Caldecott’s third bore opened, Caltrans has had to raise and lower powered cones to reverse the flow of traffic twice per day on the two-lane middle bore. As a result of this project, the tunnel will now have two permanent two-lane bores in each direction.