Advocates Question Public Benefit of Caldecott Tunnel Fourth Bore

caldecott_tunnel_pbo.jpgPhoto: pbo31

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced bids for the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel earlier this week, claiming that the new $420 million tunnel on State Route 24 through the Oakland hills will reduce congestion for the 160,000 motorists who use it daily and that it will create 6,000 new jobs.

"This project will reduce local traffic congestion while creating nearly 6,000 jobs for California – and is a solid investment in the future of the Bay Area’s transportation infrastructure," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Of the estimated $420 million needed to complete the job, $11 million would come from the Proposition 1B transportation bond passed in 2006, as well as $197.7 million the state secured through the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act (ARRA). The balance for the project would be made up of local and regional funding.

The governor adopted the fourth bore project as part of his push to
pass Prop 1B and at the time threatened to
exempt the project from environmental review after a coalition of bicycle, pedestrian, and public transit advocates
sued Caltrans for preparing an inadequate EIS. The exemption would have effectively nullified the lawsuit, so advocates settled with Caltrans last January, in the process securing nearly $6 million for bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout the East Bay.

The settlement also added protections for construction impacts by requiring low
-sulfur fuels to reduce emissions from construction vehicles, reduced light 
pollution from construction activities, and reduced noise impacts on nearby
 residents, according to East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Robert Raburn, one of the coalition of litigants that sued Caltrans.

Raburn claimed the project benefits motorists over transit riders
and argued that the money spent on this project should have gone to increasing transit capacity or adding another tube for BART under the bay.

"The only benefit of this project is for the reverse commute," said
Raburn. "The Contra Costa resident that wants to get to the San Francisco Opera in
a hurry will be able to blast right through."

Caldecott_pic.jpgImage: Caltrans

Raburn contends the new tunnel will not provide additional throughput in the peak direction, despite the implication made by Schwarzenegger that it will alleviate congestion. Caltrans workers currently maintain one of the three tunnels open in each direction throughout the day, then direct cars through the middle tunnel based on which direction sees more traffic.

A spokesperson for Caltrans, Jeff Weiss, confirmed that the new tunnel will not add capacity in the peak direction, but will make non-peak traffic flow better, which is a priority for Caltrans.

"The non-peak direction has gotten to be more and more of a problem, particularly on the weekend. [Caltrans workers] have changed the middle bore up to 13 times on the weekend," said Weiss, describing a scenario where a Cal football game brings a great deal of traffic on a Saturday morning, followed by a concert at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, requiring Caltrans to spend man hours altering the middle bore traffic flow.

Weiss also confirmed that the figure of 6,000 additional jobs created came from US DOT figures that estimate highway projects generate approximately 18,000 for every $1 billion spent. 

Raburn, who reluctantly admitted that "the ship has sailed on this project," still noted that the big loser will be BART riders:

There will be fewer people who pull off and ride BART. It’s going to degrade BART’s ridership, siphon off passengers who currently find BART to be a more convenient option. They need those passengers throughout the day, [especially] in the off-peak direction. That’s money that goes right into BART’s pocket and justifies their existence and enables them to fund more trains.

  • Nick

    This sounds familiar. Was an EIR completed or was it just a strategic move to secure funding for alternative transit? Can the requirement for an EIR be waived if the plantiffs concede?

    “The governor… threatened to exempt the project from environmental review after a coalition of bicycle, pedestrian, and public transit advocates sued Caltrans for preparing an inadequate EIS. The exemption would have effectively nullified the lawsuit, so advocates settled with Caltrans last January, in the process securing nearly $6 million for bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout the East Bay.”

  • Dave Snyder

    Good job Robert for securing $6 million for bike and ped improvements! You just added to your budget an amount that’s double the San Francisco annual budget for all bicycle improvements.

    But the Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore is a real waste of money, indeed.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    More bridge tolls from Steve Heminger’s private, $750k/day stash of RM-2 pure, unadulterated slush, allocated to MTC staff’s very, very, very special contractor mafia friends.

    Who will I choose to reward this week? Let me see… BART or Caltrans? Caltrans or BART?

  • How many times do we have to play the “adding capacity to reduce congestion” game? Really? Where has that worked? All the project is going to do is make East Bay congestion that much worse while adding to their car-dependant sprawl.

    “Green” governor my ass. But I think this just falls in line with his robbing of the transit funds for the past couple years. Cars rule in California and there is still a long fight ahead of us.

  • Amazingly still cheaper than the Oakland Airport Connector.

  • This is isn’t just a waste of money, it’s an investment in death. It would make more sense for Arnold to buy about three F-22 Raptors and just occasionally strafe and bomb people in the area. He could use airline pilots who have lost their destructive leisure-industry jobs.

    Also, can we get more detail on how the “6,000 jobs” thing works? I could see how there would be a lot of temporary construction work, plus people needed to maintain the extra road surface, but I don’t see how – even with ambulance and other emergency crews, hospital staff, coroners, grave diggers, and people who provide flowers for funerals, nor the caterers for the reception after the funeral and the people who make the nappies (diapers) for babies made to replace those who are killed – it adds up to 6,000 jobs. Maybe 5,000.

  • @Todd. You’re funny.
    The job figure is all the assumed indirect jobs from the project, not quite as indirect as your list, but still presuming quite a lot. Like the person who makes the drill bits for the drills in the tunnel, etc.

  • jordan jarosz

    Bids came in lower than eng estimate, 275 mill. Compnies are trying to bid low to keep their companies afloat in this economy

  • The BART Board was so concerned about loss of ridership, that it voted in FAVOR of a resolution supporting the 4th bore expansion. Which just goes to show that the Board really represents the contracting lobby, and not the interests of the District.

  • ian

    well, with that earlier post today on the study that confirms congestion never actually decreases when you build more highway capacity…

    this is a great idea.

    why is bay area planning so f—ed up?

    so sad.

  • CBrinkman

    When the 4th bore was first discussed I had heard that a possible mitigation would be opening the old tunnel (as in Old Tunnel Road) as a bike tunnel. Anyone heard anything about that?

  • Dave Snyder

    There is no Bay Area planning. There’s Bay Area politics, in which Steve Heminger delicately balances the competing demands of bay area politicians who themselves balance the competing demands of constituents and campaign contributors to bring money, and jobs, to their respective communities. Long-term sustainable economics, the environment, and quality of life, are not part of this particular equation. That would require a primacy of planning, and Steve Heminger, like most executives at his position, is more interested in doing his appointed job than in changing the nature of his job to do real planning. The MTC needs a Gorbachev; Heminger is Brezhnev. Prove me wrong, Steve. Please.

  • Jame

    @ian @davesnyder

    Agreed. We don’t think as a region. There is no incentive. I’d love it if my neighborhood had better transit options. I live in a pretty dense section of Oakland. Take transit to work. But on the weekend, I hop back in my car b/c transit is infrequent. Or doens’t have an efficient route to where I’d like to go.

    For example, some weekends i head over to Broadway Plaza. I think about it each day if i am going to drive or transit. I could take BART, but the bus from my house to BART doesn’t run frequently, so I end up driving to BART. But if I am already in my car, I might as well hop on the freeway and head over the hill. It usally takes 15 or 20 minutes. If it is a slow day it might take 45. But there is no consistency on the time. If it always took 45 minutes, I’d hop on BART every time. Especially if the bus was frequent (every 15 min). But that won’t happen. And people over the hill have free and easy drives into Oakland or SF, and OAkland commuted who use transit daily during commute times, pull out their cars on the weekend.

    So the question is. How come we can’t use our transit dollars into turning into commuter transit users into 75% transit users? Clearly these people are already comfortable using transit, why can’t it be a more permanent alternative?

  • tomtakt

    Well, if we jus got rid if some of the excess parking near BART destinations in downtown Oakland and SF, a lot more people might take BART. Oh, and if BART had reasonable group rates!!

  • robo

    I don’t believe the ship has left the port on this one. there has been no earth moved as yet.
    I hope that the east bay groups continue to try and derail this bad project.
    The construction amount has been lowered to make it more acceptable, but it will surely turn into a $1B+ project.
    What could AC transit and MUNI do with $1B? Does anyone really believe, after all this time, that adding lanes relieves congestion? Caltrans doesn’t even believe that anymore. The same folks who speed through the tunnel will just get caught at the next interchange, and the toll plaza.
    It’s fools’ pork.

  • Michael F. Sarabia

    Consider the following
    1. Global Warming: Warming’s impacts sped up, worsened since Kyoto
    WASHINGTON—Since the 1997 international accord to fight global warming, climate change has worsened and accelerated —beyond some of the grimmest of warnings made back then.
    As the world has talked for a dozen years about what to do next, new ship passages opened through the once frozen summer sea ice
    of the Arctic.
    In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost trillions of tons of ice. Mountain glaciers in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa are shrinking faster than before.
    And it’s not just the frozen parts of the world that have felt the heat in the dozen years leading up to next month’s climate summit in
    — The world’s oceans have risen by about an inch and a half.
    —Droughts and wildfires have turned more severe worldwide, from the U.S. West to Australia to the Sahel desert of North Africa.
    —Species now in trouble because of changing climate include, not just the lumbering polar bear which has become a symbol of global warming, but also fragile butterflies, colorful frogs and entire stands of North American pine forests.
    —Temperatures over the past 12 years are 0.4 of a degree warmer than the dozen years leading up to 1997.
    Even the gloomiest climate models back in the 1990s didn’t forecast results quite this bad so fast.
    “The latest science is telling us we are in more trouble than we thought,” Janos Pasztor, climate adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
    1. Global Warming: Resurgence of El Niño means that 2010 could yet be the hottest year on record.

    2. Despite the big freeze Britain’s climate is getting distinctly warmer – and we may feel it this summer

    3. The data is being studied but the conclusion will be that the first decade in the 21st Century is the warmest, since the Dark Ages.

    Yes, the new Coldecott tunnel will be great! It will promote solo car commuting while mass transit, bus, trains and BART see a decline in riders, profits and employees. Way to go!
    What could be done with the $420 million?
    A. Keep mass transit running and
    B. Speed up the Economic Recovery?
    Or, would you rather wait and see electric cars going up the 4th Co

    How about Global Warming? No problem, more and more Americans are becoming skeptic and, if they are right, it will all be one stale old joke very soon. Aren´t you glad?

    From UK “It may be a hard notion to accept after a week that has seen the nation paralysed by snow and ice. Nevertheless, meteorologists are adamant that our world is still getting warmer. Indeed, many now believe that 2010 may turn out to be the hottest year on record.”
    And, the decade ending this year, the Warmest Decade since The Dark Ages.

    Britain may be shivering, the Met Office may have issued emergency weather warnings for the entire country and hundreds of trains and flights may have been cancelled, but our future is destined to be a hot and sticky one. And we are likely to feel the consequences sooner rather than later.

    It is a point stressed by Doug Smith, a climate expert at the Met Office. “The hottest year on record was 1998 and some people have argued that if global warming is really taking place, we should have had an even warmer year since then. We haven’t, I admit. And yes, the weather is terrible at present.

    But, I am sure things will change – and we won’t have to wait long.” Smith and other meteorologists say that for the past few years, temperatures have been prevented from soaring even higher than they did in 1998 thanks to one key factor: the El Niño warming of the Pacific. This phenomenon occurs at irregular intervals of between two and seven years and can last for months, pumping vast amounts of heat into the atmosphere. A strong El Niño occurred in 1998 and played a key role in heating the world to a record-breaking level. Unbelievers too often point out that compared to 1998, temperatures are less…. Gee! Do they know about El Nino?

    In recent years, however, the Pacific has cooled thanks to a corresponding ocean phenomenon, known as La Niña . It depresses sea surface temperatures and has played a key role in limiting global warming since the turn of the century. As a result, global temperatures have been prevented from rising above their 1998 record level. That cooling has now stopped, however, and a new El Niño warming period has just started in the Pacific. “If that keeps up for the next few months, it will result in a great deal of heat being pumped into the atmosphere,” added Smith.
    “The signs are that it will. If so, our computer models indicate that this year is more likely than not to be the hottest on record.
    Even if it isn’t, I am quite sure a record breaker will still occur in the next few years.”

    The headlines then will look very different from the “Britain in deep freeze” variety that have appeared over the past few days, though we should note a key caveat here. Soaring global temperatures do not guarantee hot weather for Britain. We may still get a poor summer, but that does not mean the world is not continuing to heat up, a point ignored by most climate-change deniers.
    In fact, there is a world of difference between the British weather at any given time and the inexorable shift that is taking place in the climate of the planet, as Peter Inness, a Reading University meteorologist, makes clear. “Britain covers only a very small part of the globe. It takes up less than one thousandth of the world’s surface. The temperature here is almost irrelevant when considering the
    issue of global climate change.”

    A point that should be kept in mind as councils struggle to grit roads, cars and vans slither on the ice, exams are disrupted, and farmers battle to get food to their animals. Yes, we are feeling the cold but many other parts of the world are having no such problem, as Richard Betts, head of climate impact at the Met Office, argues. “It is true that Britain is having a spell of extremely cold weather, as is much of northern Europe and the United States. But at the same time, Canada and the Mediterranean region are having unusually warm weather for the time of year. We shouldn’t get so absorbed with what is going on in our backyard.”
    This argument is also made by Inness – though rather more forcibly. “I think it is really stupid to say that the current cold weather proves that climate change is not happening. Climate refers to changes in the weather patterns over a 20- to 40-year period.
    What is happening in Britain at present represents little more than a point on a graph.” This takes us to the heart of the matter. Meteorologists may make errors with specific long-range forecasts. (This winter was more
    likely to be mild than severe, they thought.) There is no doubt about the overall trend. Each year, humanity pumps billions of tonnes
    of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The inevitable result will be global warming and major, catastrophic climate change.
    It is a bit like playing Pooh sticks, says Betts. “When you throw sticks off a bridge, you know they will all be swept downstream. You just don’t know which one will move the fastest. It is the same with climate and the weather. We know the world is warming inexorably but we cannot say specifically which year is going to be the warmest. We can only indicate what are the general prospects of getting a record-breaking year. And despite the horrible weather at present, it is quite possible that we will get one this year.” The resurgence of El Niño means that 2010 could yet be the hottest year on record in the warmest decade on record, since the Dark Ages.

  • Michael F. Sarabia

    What could have been done with $420 Million?
    1. Keep mass transit frequency and allow people a way to ride to apply for jobs, many times, and, if and when, they find one, get to work.
    2. Reduce solo car commuting instead of promoting this with the Coldecott Tunnel 4th Bore.
    We could speed up employment recovery and help survive with lower wages, using mass transit.
    Instead, by 2012, when the tunnel opens, will there be a long line of commuter cars waiting? Or, will less traffic mean that little time gains will be seen, when it opens?
    This is deja vu, all over again.
    By 2013, or 2014, the BART Oakland Airport Connector will begin operations while airliner traffic dwindles below that of Business Jets, with VIPs that have a Company Limo waiting.
    In a Democracy, is anybody interested in long-range plans?
    What if Global Warming is true? Will we be ready in California?

  • maura

    global warming? How about a no-idling law in contra costa? yesterday i was parked next to a parked and running car for 32 mins at a soccer practice. all the while the woman inside talked on her phone! it’s disgusting. people say californians are so healthy and green–I’m not seeing it! C’mon people turn your cars off instead of idling!

  • How could we spend $420+m?

    1st, asap, “until the 4th bore is opened,” there should be a huge discount on reverse commute BART fare to fill the empty seats. Also add a few more buses to BART stations. For practically no cost, BART may be able to take more commuters out of the Caldecott than a 4th bore would transport.

    With the knowledge that any additional commuters to the east side (with a 4th bore) will simply require more commuters to the west side to make up for the westside’s lost workers, it is compelling to use whatever is left of the $420m to install a more modern and efficient automated tram/ultra-light rail network on the east side, to connect most neighborhoods with BART by tram.

    There are six or more tram developers who can compete for the opportunity to demonstrate the speed and efficiency of newer technology. BART recently did a huge study on the advantages of personal/group rapid transit, but the study was supposedly buried after it showed the installation costs will only be 1/3 to 1/2 that of BART tracks.

    But they key is raising BART ridership asap. before too much is wasted boring. I doubt two more lanes can more than 2,000 people an hour which should be easy for BART if there are also better bus connections for commuters.
    There is a thread posted on CL transit forum
    Please post any other websites wanting to stop the boring boondoggle!


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