Caltrans is preparing to open bids Sept. 11 to expand the Caldecott Tunnel, the huge connector between the freeways and cultures of Contra Costa and Alameda counties.
Caltrans reported this week that it has pushed the original bid opening date from this Tuesday, Aug. 11, to Sept. 11. The agency now is scheduled in mid-November to award the contract to add a new two-lane bore just north of the existing three bores on Highway 24 between Orinda and Oakland.
While the entire project with all the planning and engineering is estimated to cost $420 million, the estimate for the actual construction is placed at $270 million, according to Caltrans Web site.
I think we can bet that Caltrans and Contra Costa Transportation Authority managers hope that intense competition for jobs in the construction industry will drive down the bid prices. Remember the extra bore is being paid for mostly with taxes and bridge tolls, including $125 million in Contra Costa County Measure J sales tax, $50 million in Bay Area bridge tolls, and $175 million in state transportation bond money approved by voters in 2006.
As for the big dig itself, the fourth bore will be 41.25 feet wide and 3,385 feet long. It will include seven emergency exit passageways to connect the third and forth bores.
Information about the project is available at Caltrans project Web site, and also on Wickipedia, which tells us that that the Caldecott Tunnel was used for filming motorcycle chase scenes in director George Lucas’ first feature length film, “THX 1138,” in 1971.
Next time you’re stuck in a traffic jam in the Caldecott Tunnel, remember that the “Star Wars” creator filmed his first big high-speed chase scene on your often congested travel route. Then again, the movie was science fiction.