Dynamite the opening closed. Other side is on police land.
Built: 1903 Closed: 1927
Camera. Nice shots of the whole bay area.
In the 1880s, a stagecoach trip from Lafayette to Oakland took more than two hours. The most formidable part of the journey was traveling over the steep, twisting roads that wound through the Berkeley Hills, separating Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Accidents were frequent – sometimes fatal – when horse-drawn carriages careened out of control on the steep slopes, crashing into trees or rocks or colliding with other carriages.
The Kennedy Toll Road
A tunnel had been considered as far back as the 1860s, but no progress was made towards building one until the late 1870s when the Oakland and Contra Costa Tunnel Company built the Kennedy Toll Road. One-hundred feet of tunnel were dug on the Contra Costa side and 200 feet were excavated from the Oakland side before the company ran out of money.
For the next 30 years, travelers either contended with the difficult road over the saddle of the Berkeley Hills or took the long way around through Richmond.
In the meantime, merchants in Oakland continued to complain that they were losing business to San Francisco or Martinez, which were farther away as the crow flies, but easier to access because of the local railroads.
The Old Broadway Tunnel
The dream of a tunnel was revived in the 1890s when money from the two counties and funding from private citizens financed a new tunnel.
After decades of planning and false starts, the new tunnel opened in 1903. As for the name of the tunnel, it depended on whom you talked to or which historical account you read. Some called it the Broadway Tunnel for the road that accessed it. Others referred to it as the Kennedy Tunnel for the old toll road and the local farm near the west portal. Since its abandonment, it is usually referred to as the "Old Broadway Tunnel".
The Broadway Tunnel was located about 220 feet above the current Caldecott Tunnel and 320 feet below the summit. It was 1,040 feet long and 17 feet wide and built with timber supports. Long, dark and narrow, the tunnel could only accommodate one-way traffic. Drivers on either side would ignite rolled-up newspapers to signal travelers on the other side to wait for them to pass through.
Enter at Your Own Risk
By 1915, the Broadway Tunnel was widened to accommodate automobiles and trucks. But it was never a very wide tunnel and trucking was hindered by the steep approaches.
Water seepage, particularly in the winter months, plagued the tunnel. In December 1920, the tunnel was closed for ten days to fix a leak in the tunnel roof.
In November 1926, heavy mudslides fell onto the highway at the east end of the tunnel, engulfing a car but not injuring its occupants. Afterwards, men were stationed at both entrances to warn motorists that they could use the tunnel, but at their own risk.
According to the Oakland Tribune:
Repair work ordered spasmodically always resulted in the tunnel being declared in "good working repair," and in August 1927, Oakland City Engineer George Randle said "the tunnel is quite safe."
"The fact that it is somewhat out of line need not alarm anybody," he said, admitting there was "some movement" to the posts, which by 1927 stood on the concrete flooring. Eventually, the Old Broadway Tunnel was replaced by the Caldecott Tunnel. The Old Broadway Tunnel, with sections possibly collapsed, had its portals sealed off for public safety.
The Twin Bores
Alameda and Contra Costa counties, as well as the City of Oakland, formed a joint commission in 1926 to study the feasibility of relocating the passage to a lower level. In 1929, the two counties formed Joint Highway District No. 13, with the specific purpose of building the Broadway Low Level Tunnel, which featured two bores (one for each direction of traffic).