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Location DB > United States > California > Berkeley > The Old Broadway Tunnel
The Old Broadway Tunnel
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 Database Info
created by Cowboy on 6/3/2010 5:02 PM
last modified by Emperor Wang on 7/13/2010 2:09 PM
Publically Viewable Publically Viewable
This location has been labeled as Demolished, and therefore can be viewed by anyone.
Just a flag with a sign saying what happened.
 Basic Information
Type: Tunnel
Status: Demolished
Accessibility: Easy
Recommendation: check it out if you're nearby
 Physical Information
Tunnel Rd
Berkeley, California
United States
Owner: E.B.R.P.D.P.D.
  • See a map of this location
  •  Hazards
     Interesting Features
    Old flag pole to mark the spot
     Security Measures
  • Dynamite the opening closed. Other side is on police land.
  •  Historical Dates
    Built: 1903
    Closed: 1927
     Required Equipment
     Recommended Equipment
    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).

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    Cowboys Visit
    Thu, Jun 3rd, 2010
    posted by Cowboy
    5 pictures

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     Moderator Rating
    The moderator rating is a neutral rating of the content quality, photography, and coolness of this location.

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    This location's validation is current. It was last validated by Emperor Wang on 7/13/2010 2:10 PM.

     Latest Changes
  • on Jul 13 10 at 14:10, Emperor Wang validated this location
  • on Jul 13 10 at 14:09, Emperor Wang changed the following: Province / State (please use full name)
  • on Jul 13 10 at 14:09, Emperor Wang validated this location
  • on Jul 13 10 at 14:09, Emperor Wang changed the following: Recommended Equipment
  • on Jul 13 10 at 14:08, Emperor Wang changed the following: History
  • on Jun 6 10 at 10:16, Opheliaism validated this location
  • on Jun 3 10 at 17:23, Cowboy made this location available
  • on Jun 3 10 at 17:21, Cowboy updated the main picture
  • on Jun 3 10 at 17:21, Cowboy updated gallery Cowboys Visit
  • on Jun 3 10 at 17:20, Cowboy added some pictures to a gallery
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