Marin’s Cal Park Tunnel To Open by February 2010

calpark_inside.jpgRedwood timbers being ripped out of the old tunnel.

Within a few weeks, there should literally be a light at the end of the Cal Park tunnel for cyclists commuting from San Rafael to the Larkspur ferry. Engineers are mucking out dirt and boulders on the collapsed south end of the 1,100-foot tunnel, making room for an 11.5-foot wide bike path and tracks for the SMART commuter rail trains.

Dave Bernardi, manager of the $25 million project, and Erin Hohenshelt of the Jacobs Associates engineering firm, gave a detailed update on the project to the Marin County Bike Coalition last night, predicting the 85-year-old tunnel will be open to cyclists by February 2010 “at the latest.”

The project includes a 1.2-mile Class 1 bike path and a self-contained “tunnel within a tunnel” replete with video cameras, lighting, ventilation, emergency phones and even fire hydrants, just in case. The bike passage will have its own walls and concrete ceiling, separating it from the 45 mph diesel trains a few feet away. The trains are expected to start rumbling through in 2012.

Construction crews have been busy removing the original redwood arches inside the tunnel and replacing them with steel braces. All went smoothly until the crews reached the south end, where they encountered loose dirt running through sinkholes and boulders the size of small cars.

“We have a lot of loose ground and cavities and we don’t see an end to it,” said Hohenshelt. But she cautiously predicted the south end would be opened up by May.

calpark_south_2_.jpgSouth side of the tunnel in Larskspur.

Hohenshelt, who commutes to the job site from San Francisco by bike and ferry said she often hears from cyclists who hope to be the first ones through. “But I can tell you who’s going to be the first one through,” she said with a grin.

The tunnel is at the south end of the planned 70-mile SMART train route from the Larkspur Ferry to Cloverdale. SMART was approved last year by voters in Marin and Sonoma counties. A quarter-cent sales tax to help pay for SMART took effect in both counties Wednesday.

The bike coalition has been working to reopen the tunnel since 1998, when its members thought the work might cost about $3 million. The project is supported by eight agencies: the County of Marin, Caltrans, the Transportation Authority of Marin, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, SMART, the Bay Area Toll Authority and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

MCBC is also leading an effort to reopen a second railway tunnel to connect Mill Valley with Corte Madera. That project, the Alto Tunnel, is one of three alternate routes being considered by the county. The other two – the Horse Hill bike path and Camino Alto – already exist but have been widely criticized by local cyclists as too steep, unsafe for children and unfriendly to pedestrians. However, the Alto tunnel faces opposition from local homeowners, who don’t want a steady stream of cyclists riding through their now-isolated neighborhoods.

  • Mario

    Not to be *that guy*, but considering the irreplceability of those redwood timbers–and the immense value that they have, presuming they’re not rotted–shouldn’t they be salvaged instead of ripped out with a backhoe?

    I mean, I would take them, as would many, if they would let us…

  • Murphy

    Writer’s Note: Ah, Mario raises a good question, and there’s a happy answer that didn’t quite make it into the story. The redwood supports, which are solid heartwood, are being salvaged to the fullest extent possible, though many pieces have been damaged over the years. The pieces that are in good shape will likely reappear in various forms, including furniture, according to the engineers. -Tom Murphy

  • Peter

    very cool, and interesting stuff!

    maybe we could do a opening day celebration ride of some type? fundraiser for MCBC and Streetsblog? 😀

    i was out as Horse Hill the other day — it’s a super-nice spot, sort of — the five-lanes-in-either-direction highway is *right there*, and as all us bikers know, it’s crazy loud. i don’t know how often the horses are out there, but i’d feel bad for them any time they’re out there — seems like such a stressful/toxic environment. and, of course, the only thing separating the horses from the highway is the bike path, so us bikers get to enjoy the incredible roar of the cars, too.

    http://www.horsehill.org/

  • Geoff

    And here’s links to where some of that salvaged redwood is currently being sold:

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/mat/1490745612.html

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/nby/mat/1492588156.html

  • Jeff C. Hicks

    When is the CalPark Tunnel opening?

  • Tom Murphy

    According to Marin County Bike Coalition Exec Director Kim Baenisch, it now looks like the tunnel will open in Fall 2010. The latest delay has been the development of the North and South approaches, but the contract for that work will be signed this spring. Work will take about six months. So look for the ribbon cutting somewhere around October or November.

  • mjbinsf

    MARCH 15, 2010: Is it open yet?
    Dave Bernardi, manager of the $25 million project, and Erin Hohenshelt of the Jacobs Associates engineering firm, gave a detailed update on the project to the Marin County Bike Coalition last night, predicting the 85-year-old tunnel will be open to cyclists by February 2010 “at the latest.”

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Engineers Lay Out Costs of Reopening Alto Tunnel to Bicyclists

|
Deb Hubsmith of MCBC addressing Public Works Asst. Chief Craig Tackaberry (far left). Photo by Tom Murphy. Addressing a crowd of more than 100 people Wednesday, engineers said it could cost $40 million to $52 million to reopen the crumbling 125-year-old railroad tunnel between Mill Valley and Corte Madera for cyclists. The nearly half-mile-long Alto […]

Cal Park Tunnel Opening Ceremony Sees Hundreds of Cyclists

|
Hundreds of joyous Marin County cyclists pedaled through the Cal Park Hill tunnel Friday afternoon as officials cut the ribbon on a $27 million holiday present that supporters hailed as a national model for green transportation. The 124-year-old railroad tunnel, sealed after a fire in 1990, connects the Larkspur Ferry landing to San Rafael, trimming […]

Workshop Tomorrow on Marin’s Alto Tunnel

|
Click for a larger image Cycling enthusiasts have long dreamed of reopening the rotting, 125-year-old Alto Tunnel as a key link in a greenway stretching from the Golden Gate Bridge to Cloverdale. Now they may get their chance, as the county’s Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program begins a $225,000 study of three routes between the two […]

Today’s Headlines

|
Chronicle Editorial Board Comes Out Swinging For High Speed Rail SFMTA Board Vote Kills Fix for Broken Meter Scam (SF Examiner) Matier and Ross Note HSR Connectivity Money for Central Subway Won’t Connect Projects SF Weekly Complains About BART Ad it Doesn’t Understand Complaining About Protected Bike Lanes, Willie Brown Endorses Bike-Only Streets (SF Gate) […]