A giant rock-eating drill will be the star of commencement ceremonies on the Orinda side of the Caldecott Tunnel this morning as the long-awaited fourth bore project gets underway.
The massive, German-built roadheader - a 130-ton rock-crunching, rotating cutting head built at the end of a boom that will push it though the bedrock at the Caldecott - fires up this morning to take a few ceremonial first bites. Other equipment will take over until the cutting device is called on to begin chewing up rock again in a few weeks.
Residents in the nearby Parkwoods area have been up in arms about the traffic noise and traffic in the area as trucks and other construction equipment move in to begin work this morning. Things may remain that way for at least another month as the roadheader is expected to make headway into its self-drilled underground cavern.
CalTrans and state transportion officials will be on hand for today's ceremony marking the project's "first bite." The $420 million effort is expected to wrap up by late 2013.
When completed, it is hoped it will alleviate congestion in the off-peak direction (eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon). The new bore should eliminate the need to reverse the direction of the traffic at the middle bore, now done twice a day on weekdays and several times a day on weekends.