Caldecott Tunnel & Old Tunnels history pt1





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Uploaded on Aug 12, 2008

The Caldecott Tunnel flows from Oakland/Berkeley California through into Orinda California in Contra Costa County. There is a rich history of tunnels in the East Bay of San Francisco. Everyone knows of the Caldecott Tunnel but only some know about the backroads to the old tunnel called Upper Broadway Tunnel. This is a fun day out if you are looking for a road adventure in the San Francisco Bay Area. Take HWY 80 over the Bay Bridge to HWY 580/24 toward Walnut Creek to go through the Caldecott Tunnel. Take the first exit after exiting the tunnel to explore Tunnel Rd to the old tunnel.

Before the 3 bores of the Caldecott Tunnels were completed there was an old tunnel. It was the Alameda Contra-Costa Inter-county Tunnel and was debated from the 1860's before it was finally completed in 1903 and cost $46,000 USD. The only way to get over the steep hills effectively was by horse and carriage. The steep grades only caused accidents that were horrific. The work on the tunnel was stopped a couple of times due to lack of funds.

Before then, the only way to get around was by the Summit Road, Fish Ranch Road or San Pablo Dam Road. Most came by foot, horse or horse and carriage. It was so dangerous that countless persons lost their lives with the steep hills. After many attempts to raise money to build the tunnel local groups held many fundraisers to help dig and work toward completion. Even after the tunnel was opened in 1903 the road to Contra Costa County did not go down the main part where the current Highway 24 is now through Orinda. Instead, Tunnel Road started where Skyline Road meets Tunnel Road in the Oakland Hills, went through the Contra Costa Inter-county Tunnel exited sharp right toward the outskirts of Moraga into Saranap and ending at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek. The road was called Broadway and was a dirt road that started as Tunnel Rd. in Berkeley and went all the way to Walnut Creek. During that time before 1937 cars coming from San Francisco boarded a ferry, went to Alameda, came up Broadway to Upper Broadway Terrace up to Skyline to Tunnel Rd where Broadway continued (where Mt Diablo Blvd is today) and ended at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek. Broadway went all the way
History Timeline link to stage Gov. website


Early on the toll roads existed. There was Thorton Hill Toll Road and the Kennedy Toll Road to get access. The tunnel was debated so much and for so long, decades passed from the 1860's and there were settlers and trade.

The tunnel was dug up until about 350 feet of reaching the meeting point until the final day in 1903 when it a reality. It was closed for a few times early on, and in 1912 it closed for 6 months after fierce storms and the floor was lowered by 2 feet and caused an improvement in traffic flow. In 1915 the tunnel was closed for a whole year and the county businesses suffered. Fish Ranch Road, at that time called Wagner Rd. was used as a bypass. The old tunnel was used up until late 1937 before the Caldecott opened.

It is interesting to note that there were only two main roads in the very early contra costa county. Road 5 and Road 6 got you around the inner county. Road 5 from the Inter-county Tunnel to Minor Rd. in Orinda and up to Martinez and Road 6 started from Martinez through to Danville and San Jose.

As it turns out there are many bore holes in the hills. The tunnels are: 3 Caldecott tunnels, a short curvy tunnel at the top of Solano Ave in the lower west Berkeley Hills (still used), A BART tunnel, a water pipe leading from orinda, the 3300ft train tunnel In Oakland's skyline area leading into Redwood Park heading toward the town of Canyon. This tunnel is now closed and sealed but it's history is still there.

Please check out pt. 2

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