Public Comment

Commentary: More Cars for Berkeley with New Caldecott Tunnel

By Roy Nakadegawa
Tuesday July 04, 2006

In August 1999, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) began the Route 24/Caldecott Tunnel Corridor Study, for which I served on the Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) as an alternate representing BART. I attended most of the numerous meetings held. The Final Summary Report was presented on November 2000. It was never accepted by the Policy Advisory Committee, and MTC basically threw up its hands and did not pursue the report’s conclusions. 

All the cities to the west of the hill who were represented on PAC objected to the construction of the fourth bore and, if I recall correctly, one of the cities to the east did as well, with another expressing some reservations. 

I was critical of several points in the report. First, the study was based on a projection of only 20 years into the future, whereas the tunnel, being major infrastructure similar to the Bay Bridge, will function for a far longer period, so the study should have extended over a longer period. If it had been done for a 50-year period it is very likely that the tunnel would by that time become congested again. So are we to build a fifth, or beyond that, a sixth tunnel? 

Another point I found troubling was that most of the study was focused on capacity and congestion, and little on land use and development, which determines the number of cars used for mobility. The current development pattern currently generates a peak use of BART that is obtuse, in that the morning peak westbound is five times greater than eastbound. The reason for this is simply the density of development around stations to the west versus development to the east which is not conducive to transit use and relies on auto access. The report to some degree acknowledges this by considering an alternative of building more parking for BART, which encourages greater auto use, which leads to a need for more and more highways and tunnels. This points out the lack of consideration for real land use and development issues. 

Overall, the environmental impact of the new bore will be detrimental to livability, air quality and health, our climate and our resources. 

The social equity implications of major mega-projects such as the new bore are generally that those who benefit are the more affluent living in low density areas. They are the ones with more auto trips, which create the problems of congestion. 

The cost effectiveness of a $400 million tunnel being built to increase capacity primarily for peak hours is negative. The new tunnel will add capacity for only 3,800 cars, so the cost per car will be over $15 per trip for 20 years. 

Transit Alternative: Before BART started operation across the bay, AC Transit during peak period was carrying the same number of people as all the vehicles or 8-9,000 per hour. Admittedly it took time to build up to this volume. There needs to be development to the east as dense as destinations in San Francisco. There is a total lack of this kind of concentration especially to the east of the tunnel. 

I recall I-710 down in Southern California was held back by Caltrans for 25-plus years because of the objection of the communities through which it would pass. Now Caltrans is proposing a long tunnel through this section through Alhambra and South Pasadena. Will Caltrans recognize the significant objections from cities such as Berkeley, which will get added traffic when the congestion on Route 24 is relieved, encouraging commuters to continue driving? Berkeley is already troubled by congestion on its local streets, so will Caltrans build a tunnel through Oakland/Berkeley to I-80?  

All that this project is doing is encouraging more auto use. 


Roy Nakadegawa is a Berkeley resident.