Caldecott Tunnel – Oakland CA


The original Caldecott Tunnel was built with the aid of the Public Works Administration (PWA). Out of a total cost of $4 million, the PWA provided $1.1 million, the state $700,000 and the highway district sold $2.3 million in bonds, which were repaid from gas tax revenues (Oakland Tribune 1937). 

Plans for the tunnel had long been in the works, as automobiles began to replace trolleys after World War I. A Joint Highway District was created in 1929 to undertake the project and money was sought from the federal government from the outset of the New Deal (Tribune 1933).  Once PWA funding was secured, construction began in mid-1934 and was completed in 1937.

Then known as the Broadway Low-Level Tunnel, it replaced travel over the East Bay hills via Fish Ranch Road and Tunnel Road (the latter passed through a timbered tunnel higher up the hills called the Kennedy Tunnel, built in 1903).  The new tunnel greatly reduced travel time to outer Contra Costa County, opening up development in Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek and the rest of what is now called “the 680 corridor”.

The tunnel had two ‘bores’ for east and west traffic separation.  The tunnel entrances have the distinctive Art Deco (Moderne) look of the time. A third bore was added in 1964 and a fourth in 2013. California highway 24 passes through the tunnels today.   In the modern photos below, the original tunnel is the one on the far right.

Construction of the original tunnel was carried out by the “Six Companies” joint venture, led by Bechtel Corporation and including Oakland’s Kaiser Engineers, who had built Hoover/Boulder Dam.  Three workmen were killed in a cave-in during August 1935.

The tunnel’s name was changed  in 1960 to honor former Berkeley Mayor and County Supervisor Thomas Caldecott, who spearheaded the project in the 1930s. 

During a recent visit, a maintenance worker was happy to show off the blowers in the original section of the tunnels. They still look pretty much like the photo from the 1930s, and when we mentioned they looked original, he said they were and added, “We only have to replace some bearings everyone once in a while.”



Project Details

Federal Cost Local Cost Total Cost Project #'s
1095000 4000000

Source notes

"Civic leaders open drive for Broadway tunnel," Oakland Tribune, May 5, 1933.

"Supervisors seek U.S. aid on Broadway Tube project," Oakland Tribune, December 27, 1933, p. D3.

"Workmen escape death in tunnel," Oakland Tribune, February 22, 1936, p. 3.

"New Broadway Tunnel is given state approval," Oakland Tribune, December 1, 1937.

"Broadway Tunnel joins two northern California counties," The Architect and Engineer, January 1938, pp. 52-53.  (Typically, the wikipedia entry says nothing about New Deal funding).


Project originally submitted by Harvey Smith on October 21, 2010.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Caldecott Tunnel
Oakland, CA 94702

Coordinates: 37.8549, -122.217

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