Plan in place to ensure power outage never closes Caldecott Tunnel

Last week when Caltrans announced that the Caldecott Tunnel might be closed for the Public Safety Power Shutoff, commuters were shocked and angered. The Caldecott Tunnel complex gets PG&E power from two separate grids, one on the Alameda County side and the other on the Contra Costa side.  

The odds of both grids failing at once has always been near zero.

Nonetheless, the Caldecott Tunnel complex has long had generators. But that system was there for a very specific purpose: a back up to the double grid system for emergency evacuations. 

"The priority had to be on safety and so we had redundant systems in place and emergency system in place and a tertiary, a third level system in place," said Bart Ney, chief of public affairs at Caltrans. 

But, the Caldecott is one of the most important corridors in California. It's essential for earthquakes, tidal waves and any other major emergency that might require a huge migration either way. 

"Then we had to get right to work with our electrical crews and work directly with our utility partners in order to get separate generators out on site as quickly as possible," said Ney. 

So, how much power does the Caldecott Tunnel need to operate all of its safety systems, its fans and it's other operations? It needs the same amount of power used by about 6,000 California homes. That would serve the entire population of Orinda. 

PG&E also devised a way to get power to the Tom Lantos Tunnel which will also remain in place. The utility provided two critical generators to BART to keep that system in full operation.