ORINDA (CBS SF) – It was a smooth ride for commuters Monday morning on the first weekday since the Caldecott Tunnel’s fourth bore opened over the weekend.
The new bore opened shortly before 4:30 a.m. Saturday, and will ease traffic congestion for the average 160,000 commuters who travel between Oakland and Orinda every day, Caltrans spokeswoman Ivy Morrison said.
For the past 50 years, Caltrans has manually reversed the flow of traffic traveling through the middle bore twice a day, meaning only one bore was open to motorists traveling in the off-peak direction.
With the addition of the fourth bore, motorists traveling in the off-peak direction can cut about 10 minutes off of their trips, Morrison said.
Monday morning, with the exception of a fender-bender, traffic was “remarkably smooth” through the Caldecott Tunnel, Morrison said.
The fourth bore, which accommodates motorists traveling west on state Highway 24, has a higher clearance and features 19 jet fans installed on the ceiling to remove exhaust fumes and smoke in the event of a fire, she said.
The other three bores have fans that are installed in the ceiling but not exposed, Morrison said.
Unlike the other tunnels, the fourth bore has a 10-foot shoulder for motorists with car trouble or emergency vehicles needing access to accidents.
In the event of a serious incident, there are signs inside the tunnel that would direct commuters to seven cross passages between bores 3 and 4, according to Caltrans.
The escape routes are pressurized to keep smoke away, Morrisson said.
California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Hill said there were no major incidents at the Caldecott Tunnel this morning.
Hill said he drove through the fourth bore Monday morning and noticed some drivers made a few last-minute lane changes.
While many people were slowing down to look at the new bore, there wasn’t as much rubbernecking as when the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span opened, he said.
The $417 million project was funded through federal stimulus money in addition to money from Measure J in Contra Costa County, approved by voters in 2004; Bay Area bridge toll revenue; and Proposition 1B, a state transportation bond approved by voters in 2006.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)