Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oakland's Obstructionist Fourth Bore Coalition

I was excited today to read that the City of Oakland has reached an agreement with Caltrans regarding its ridiculous contention that building the fourth bore of the Caldecott tunnel will harm the city. Unfortunately, a lawsuit still obstructs the project -- one brought by a group of ne'er-do-well neighbors putting their provincial interests above those of the entire region.

Some background is in order. The Caldecott Tunnel currently has six traffic lanes, while the rest of highway 24 has 8 lanes. This means that for half of the day the tunnel cuts each side of the freeway in half.

Caltrans cleverly reverses the middle bore twice a day so rush hour gets full use of the tunnel. But this still leaves a reverse-commute pileup of cars. Each morning there is a traffic jam on the Oakland side of the hills, and vice versa for the Orinda side.

This backup does no one any good. It pollutes the area with needless air and noise pollution. It slows traffic and aggravates drivers. Most importantly, it does nothing to limit the amount of rush-hour traffic, since the pileup is in the reverse direction.

Installing the fourth bore will ameliorate these problems without significant harm to either side of the hills. Commuters will still have the same set of incentives they have today to ride Bart. Maybe a few more people will drive to Walnut Creek each morning, and more might drive to San Francisco in the evening. But even this impact seems rather far-fetched.

Enter the "Fourth Bore Coalition," a conglomeration of residents from the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and the North Hills Phoenix Association. The coalition's stated goal is to ensure the project provides a higher quality of life for residents on the west side of the hills.

I actually joined the coalition a couple of years ago, thinking this could be a reasonable way to shape policy. I support the fourth bore, but I would also like to see some additional bike lanes in the area as part of the plan. Boy was that a mistake.

But the coalition is a typical Leftist construct -- radicalized while pretending to be reasonable. It quickly became apparent to me that they had no intention of shaping policy. All they wanted to do was to stop the project or, at a minimum, cause as many problems as possible. Coalition leaders assured me that this was not the case, but I and others of my mindset knew they were lying. We exited and were soon forgotten.

True to form, the coalition demanded Caltrans proceed with a totally unwarranted extra environmental review process, then sued Caltrans.

To make matters worse, dealing directly with coalition leaders, it became clear that the reason they set up this entire artifice is they live right near the west bore entrance of the tunnel. Their real goal is to stop the project so they won't have to deal with the construction noise.

Now, the tunnel has been there since 1937, so it's pretty likely each of them bought their houses knowing full well about its existence. Their predicament reminds me of something my sister said to me a few years ago about Oakland: "If you don't like the school district and the taxes, move!" She was exactly right. I made the choice to live in Oakland.

So, to the leaders of the coalition, stop being crybabies and drop your lawsuit. You chose to live near the tunnel, and it's unreasonable for you to drag everyone else through prolonged traffic gridlock just to suit your provincial concerns. (And this is all ignoring the fact that their position is inherently irrational -- imagine the amount of extra exhaust they inhale because of the traffic jams!)

This case also illustrates an important conservative principle, litigation reform. The only reason these people are willing to file a lawsuit against Caltrans is because they perceive there as being no risk should they lose. We need to pass some sort of reform that makes it so this is not the case.

In the meantime, let's hope they give up soon and we get our fourth bore.


  1. I live near Highland hospital on which the county is planning major construction. The EIR allows the county to work on the project day and night, for 9 years.

    I think that we should not minimize the impact on neighbors from a construction site.

  2. Surely you can see the situations are not comparable. The fourth bore will not take nine years. And, you don't have the same situation where it's long been obvious that this was needed.

    That being said, choosing to live near a site like that is inherently risky. So, you bear some fault for your predicament. You could always move.

  3. I travel Hwy 24 to Walnut Creek frequently (though not a commuter) and am quite familiar with the log jam in the "non-commute" direction. CalTrans decides which direction gets the extra lanes more or less arbitrarily. Much of the sluggishness in the narrow direction is because we have such bad manners. Most que up for their punishment... but a significant minority jam the front of the line. The peddal pushing obstructionists are generic... they fight common sense wherever they see it. If you don't like living near construction don't live in an urban environment. Correcting economic and functional obsolescence is a fact of life. Get used to it!