It has been said that good things in life are usually worth the wait. This weekend, drivers in the East Bay likely will get to test the credulity of that maxim as officials finally open the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel on Highway 24.
There is an appropriately modest ceremony scheduled for Friday (read: not an expensive waste of taxpayer dollars) and then crews must put striping and finishing touches on the tunnel before it can be fully and safely opened to motorists.
The goal is for all four bores to be open on Monday in time for the morning commute.
To say the least, the $417 million project is long overdue.
The project received its go-ahead funding in 2009 and, according to transportation officials, at that time it was the nation's largest stimulus-funded transportation project.
But the fight to fund it dates back at least two decades. In that time, Contra Costa County commuters and their representatives have been pushing especially hard to find funding for the project.
In fact, they were even willing to tax themselves twice to get the job done. In 2004, voters in the area passed Regional Measure 2 to dedicate part of a bridge-toll increase to the project; that same year, voters in Contra Costa County also passed Measure J, a half-cent sales tax measure. Measure J was actually an extension of a tax and funded a broad array of projects, but the Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore was one of the centerpiece promises of that tax campaign.
Ironically, the new bore will not benefit Contra Costa commuters as much as it will other drivers. For nearly 50 years, drivers heading in the commute direction (west in the morning and east in the afternoon) have had two bores open with only one bore dedicated to the off-commute traffic. The direction of the middle bore would be changed by workers during the middle of the day. Now both the commute and off-commute directions will have two bores open.
Still, Contra Costa drivers trying to drive to Oakland or San Francisco in the evenings should benefit greatly from the new configuration. Friday nights, in particular, are often problematic for Contra Costa drivers heading west during the evening rush hour. On nights when the Bay Area's professional sports teams are playing or other big events are occurring, the backup at the tunnel can be substantial.
Although it has been a long time coming, the fourth bore should smooth traffic flow and cut greenhouse gas emissions caused by idling engines. It is a project worth celebrating. Those who fought for it are legion and too numerous to mention, but we congratulate each of them on a job well done.