Monday, December 30, 2013

And then there were four

In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I forgot to call attention to a substantial event in local Civil Engineering: Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore opens

Ever since the third bore beneath the Oakland hills opened in 1964, Caltrans has shifted the traffic direction of the center bore to accommodate the heaviest traffic. That has forced drivers heading in the opposite direction to funnel from four lanes into two to squeeze through a single bore.

I think the writers for the Chronicle, like perhaps many of us, thought that this massive project would never complete, as they kept referring to the three-tunnel arrangements in the present tense.

But that time is over! The fourth bore is here!

The new tunnel is, frankly, gorgeous. There's something about those overhanging ventilation fans that reminds me, say, of NCC-1701, or maybe the Warthog.

You can only get to the new tunnel, natch, coming East-to-West. Simply stay in the right lanes as you climb up toward the hilltop and you'll find yourself smoothly guided through this beautiful tunnel.

When we came through it the first time, I was a bit startled, because it is so much larger than the older tunnels, including an entire emergency shoulder lane inside the tunnel. A lot of work has gone into these safety systems.

Of course, there is good reason for that.

We don't often give credit to quiet successes; barely 200 people showed up when the Metropolitan Transportation Commission announced that the tunnel would open slightly earlier than expected.

For now, it's all good news. The delays through the tunnels are eased; the aggravating lane-switching protocols are no longer needed; our tax monies went to some needed infrastructure and it's serving its purpose.

I guess it's time for me to start nattering on about the next great public construction project in my area, which has been underway since (yes, you read that link correctly) 1970.

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