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Northbrae Tunnel

The Northbrae Tunnel is a component of Solano Avenue located in the city of Berkeley, California. The 465-foot long Northbrae Tunnel originally functioned as part of the East Bay Electric Lines upon opening during 1912. Between 1941-1958 the Northbrae Tunnel was part of the Key System. The Northbrae Tunnel was purchased by the city of Berkeley and reopened as an extension of Solano Avenue on December 15, 1962.

The history of the Northbrae Tunnel

The Northbrae Tunnel is located in the namesake Northbrae neighborhood of Berkeley.  The Northbrae Tunnel was constructed by the Southern Pacific Railroad as part of the East Bay Electrics Lines via cut-and-cover construction methods.  The beginning of excavation for the Northbrae Tunnel was featured in the June 9, 1910, San Francisco Call

The East Bay Electric Lines tracks were completed during 1911 and opened for service on January 1, 1912.  The East Bay Electric Lines (in red) can be seen passing through the Northbrae Tunnel on the 1912-1913 Map of Oakland Vicinity by Reality-Bonds & Finance Company Map.  The Northbrae Tunnel can be seen connecting from the ends of Solano Avenue and Sutter Street.  

The East Bay Electric Lines began to be operated by Southern Pacific subsidiary Interurban Electric Railway beginning during December 1939.  Interurban Electric Railway service ended during July 1941.  The East Bay Electric Lines tracks within Berkeley were subsequently made available to the Key System.  The Key System continued to operate through the Northbrae Tunnel until April 1958.  

Following the shuttering of Key System rail service, the Northbrae Tunnel was purchased by the city of Berkeley via the Capital Improvement Program.  The Northbrae Tunnel was rebuilt as an extension of Solano Avenue to Sutter Street.  The Northbrae Tunnel reopened to automobile traffic on December 15, 1962.  The conversion of the Northbrae Tunnel from rail service to part of Solano Avenue was featured in the March/April 1963 California Highways & Public Works


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