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"Cal Park Hill Tunnel project gets final dollars, to open in October"

From an article on the Marin Independent Journal website:

Mark Prado
Posted: 04/29/2010 05:57:09 PM PDT

The Cal Park Hill Tunnel is expected to open to the public in October after a regional agency this week approved almost $3 million for final work on the project.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission on Wednesday approved funding to build a pathway in San Rafael from Andersen Drive to the north end of the tunnel and from Larkspur Landing Circle to the structure on the south end. The northern approach will include a bridge over Woodland Avenue.

"This is the piece to get it open," said Craig Tackabery, assistant director of Marin County's Public Works Department.

Officials had hoped to open the tunnel to bicyclists and pedestrians late last year, then the planned opening was delayed until this summer.

"There was some trouble with getting all the right-of-way that was needed," said Dianne Steinhauser, executive director of the Transportation Authority of Marin.

Ghilotti Construction of Santa Rosa is expected to be awarded the contract for the approach work, which will cost $5.4 million. Work will start within two weeks and will take about four months to complete.

The $27.5 million project - split between state and county funds - will allow the 1,100-foot tube to accommodate bicyclists, pedestrians and eventually trains and their riders between San Rafael and Larkspur in an area just east of Highway 101.

The tunnel - last operational in 1978 - has been closed since the 1980s, when the south end collapsed. Before that it was wet and dank and used for shelter by the homeless. A fire in 1990 did further damage. The tunnel was built by the old Northwest Pacific Railroad to keep an even grade for the trains that used the tracks.

The tunnel, which is 30 feet wide and 25 feet tall, is divided, part dedicated to the rail right-of-way, the other to bicycle and pedestrian use.

The bicycle and pedestrian portion of the tunnel, which is done, is 11 feet wide, with an arched ceiling varying between 12 and 13 feet in height. A 2002 county study predicted that 800 to 1,000 bike riders and pedestrians would use the path daily.

The plan is to have the lighted tunnel open to the public except in the overnight hours from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Train service through the tunnel was set to begin in 2014, but a start date is now uncertain because the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District ran into financing problems. The tunnel has been graded for rail tracks.

Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at

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