DOT helps kick off construction on Oakland-San Francisco tunnel

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U.S. Transportation Department officials on Friday, Jan. 22, joined state and local officials to kick off construction on a project that will give drivers using the Caldecott Tunnel near Oakland and San Francisco two additional lanes to alleviate congestion in this highly-trafficked route. The $420 million project – which will create a new fourth tunnel – will use $197.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, making it the nation’s single largest investment of ARRA transportation funds to date.

“Embarking on a major project that will tunnel through the Berkeley Hills will not only create good paying jobs for workers, but it will also greatly improve the quality of life for East Bay residents and thousands of daily commuters,” said U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Jon Porcari.

The existing three tunnels on State Route 24, which give drivers a total of six lanes, are inadequate for the heavy volume of Bay Area traffic each day. The route serves an estimated 160,000 drivers daily. When completed in 2013, the new 3,389-foot-long tunnel will have 12-foot lanes, a 10-foot north shoulder, a two-foot south shoulder, a two-foot north emergency walkway and a three-foot south emergency walkway.

Work crews will advance from both the east and west sides of the tunnel, excavating and stabilizing small segments as they go, at a rate of about one to two yards a day. Situated less than half a mile from the Hayward fault, the tunnel will be built to withstand an earthquake and will include seven emergency escape passages to the adjacent tunnel and other safety features.

Of the $26.6 billion available for highway projects through the Recovery Act, $23.2 billion has been obligated to more than 10,600 projects nationwide – of which 6,584 are under way. California, which has $2.54 billion in highway funds available, has obligated $2.3 billion toward 809 projects, 368 of which are under way. Recovery funds have employed tens of thousands of men and women across the country and significantly improved nearly 24,000 miles of infrastructure, DOT says.