Twin tunnels at Devil’s Slide on Highway 1 will be opened to traffic on March 25 or 26. At 11 a.m. on March 25, dignitaries from across the state will converge with the locals who made it all happen to commemorate the state’s first tunnel project in nearly 50 years. Later that day or early the next morning the tunnels will open to traffic, according to Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus. The state transportation agency made the announcement late Tuesday afternoon, though information on the opening has been leaking out for days.
The tunnels and attendant bridge on the north side have been essentially complete for months. Caltrans and its contractors have worked in the last few weeks to test emergency systems and assure that the roadways were ready for traffic.
The goal of the tunnels, one serving northbound traffic and the other catering to southbound travelers, is to ensure a smooth passage between Pacifica and Montara. Coastsiders know that the spectacular, winding two lanes over Montara Mountain have been prone to slides that, through the years, have washed out the main thoroughfare for months at a time.
In the past, Devil’s Slide road closures due to impassable conditions have hurt businesses, flared frustration and caused hazardous conditions – sometimes for months at a time.
Caltrans officials made the announcement Tuesday afternoon in the form of a telephone call to the Review, but word of the opening had begun to leak from locals involved with planning for the March 25 opening party.
Moving forward with the tunnels hasn’t always been easy: Their journey has been fraught with controversy as interest groups advocated what they thought best. Some argued vehemently for an inland bypass as early as 1960. Environmentalists opposed that notion, arguing successfully that the tunnels would do the least damage to the area’s fragile ecosystem while guaranteeing a passable roadway.
The tunnels that stand today were finally made possible in 1995 with the passage of the countywide Measure T. However, ground wasn’t broken for the project until 2005.
Contractors from Kiewit Pacific Co. predicted that the entire project would be completed by 2011 for $272 million. The tunnels’ opening date is at least two years late and the final tab was tens of millions of dollars more than initially expected.