Northbrae Tunnel

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Coordinates: 37°53′25″N 122°16′22″W / 37.8903°N 122.2728°W / 37.8903; -122.2728

Northbrae Tunnel
Northbrae Tunnel.jpg
Location Berkeley / Alameda County, California, US
Route East Bay Electric Lines;
Key System;
Solano Avenue
Constructed cut-and-cover
Opened Railroad: 1912; Street: 1963
Closed Railroad: April 20, 1958
Length 465 feet (142 m)
No. of tracks 2 tracks until 1958
No. of lanes 2 lanes, Solano Avenue after 1963
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrified EBEL, 1200 V DC overhead
KS, 600 V DC overhead, after 1941

The Northbrae Tunnel, also referred to as the Solano Avenue Tunnel, was built as a commuter electric railroad tunnel in the northern part of Berkeley, California and was later converted to street use.

In 1910 the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) was electrifying its steam-engine drawn ferry-train line (to San Francisco) from Oakland Pier via Shattuck Avenue to Vine Street in Berkeley and extending it north along the base of the Berkeley Hills to newly developing neighborhoods of Berkeley at Northbrae and Thousand Oaks. The route chosen was adjacent to Henry Street and then on Sutter Street to Northbrae at the intersection of Hopkins and Sutter Streets. At this point a ridge carrying Marin and Los Angeles Avenues blocked the way. After investigating (1) a route around the ridge and (2) a cut through the ridge with bridges over it, it was decided to use the route of the cut but make it a tunnel instead, under Marin and Los Angeles Avenues just west of their intersection with The (Marin) Circle. The cut-and-cover method of tunnel construction was used. The excess soil was used to elevate the railroad right-of-way adjacent to Henry Street so that a bridge could be put in over Eunice Street and the right-of-way would go over a culvert containing Codornices Creek. The tunnel curved to the west so that the railroad could continue through a small canyon to the intersection of Solano Avenue and The Alameda and then to Thousand Oaks station at Solano and Colusa Avenues.[1][2]

The railroad was completed in 1911 and inspection trains were run at the end of that year, with service beginning January 1, 1912.

The SP ferry-train service was changed to bridge-train service operated by its subsidiary, Interurban Electric Railway (IER) across the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge in December, 1939. The IER ended service July 26, 1941,[3] but the tracks in Berkeley were made available to the Key System, which extended service to Hopkins and Sutter Streets (the stop formerly called Northbrae) beginning August 6, 1941. Service was extended through the tunnel to a new terminal at Solano Avenue and the Alameda on December 6, 1942.[4] All bridge-train service ended on April 20, 1958.[5]

The tunnel was subsequently converted to city-street use in 1963 by extending Solano Avenue from The Alameda along the former railroad right-of-way through the tunnel to align with Sutter Street.


  1. ^ Guppy
  2. ^ Ford, pp. 118-122
  3. ^ Ford, p. 278
  4. ^ Demoro, p. 104
  5. ^ Demoro, pp. 135-140

See also[edit]