Devils Slide Tunnels Opening Ceremony
Courtesy Pacific Coast Television
Caltrans District 4 - Opening Celebration of the Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devils Slide.
Tom Lantos tunnels open
By Jane Northrop
Pacifica Tribune Staff Writer

The opening of the Tom Lantos tunnels celebrated a grassroots politicial action campaign that blossomed into a multi-million dollar tunnel project.

The Caltrans officials who spoke Monday at the opening ceremony praised the local residents who fought so hard to come up with a solution to find an environmentally sound way to provide a reliable alternative to Devil's Slide.

Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty, who officiated the event, thanked those "tunnelistas," as he called them, for their hard work. U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier also recognized the hard work of the Citizens Alliance for the Tunnel Solution and presented three of its members -- Lenny Roberts, Zoe Kersteen-Tucker and April Vargas -- with proclamations from the U.S. Congress in appreciation. She also acknowledged the work of another member of the tunnel alliance, Ollie Mayer, who passed away just five days before the tunnel opened. She had also worked hard from the beginning to turn the dream of a tunnel into reality.

"This is a happy ending to a fairy tale that could have turned into science fiction," Speier said. "People can make the system work and work better. This is our Golden Gate Bridge of the south and a testament to the power of the ballot. Sometimes tunnel vision is the biggest vision of all."

She thanked her former colleague in the U.S. Congress, Tom Lantos, for securing the first $50 million for the project. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer took care of

the rest by having Devil's Slide declared a perpetual disaster area. That qualiemergency funding.

U.S. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo gave her thanks to the Lantos familiy and to the Caltrans employees who worked so hard.
"I was proud to be a tunnel co-sponsor in the house," she said. "Democracy has worked. People's voices have been heard."

Brian P. Kelly, acting secretary of the state's business, transportation and housing agency, said the Tom Lantos tunnels represent one of three major projects Caltrans is doing. The rebuilding of the Bay Bridge and the new bore of the Caldecott Tunnel are the others."Human ingenuity and sensitivity combined to see these tunnels have been done," he said.

State Senator Leland Yee joked he had heard the people of San Mateo County always get their way. "It has been an expensive project but a rewarding project for me," he said. He presented the Lantos family with a resolution from the State Senate in recognition of Lantos' work. "I am always reminded of Tom's graciousness," he said.

State Senator Jerry Hill compared the engineering work done on the tunnels to the early expeditions of the original explorers. He recognized Lantos as one of the champions of the environment whose work is apparent in many ways, including as one of the preservers of Sweeney Ridge.

Newly elected State Assembly Member Kevin Mullin said his grandmother was one of the original activists who fought to put The People's Tunnel on the ballot, so it was thrilling for him to see the project come to fruition years later. He joked about how his few months in office have been very productive.

"We have a balanced budget and the Devil's Slide tunnel. I'll quit while I'm ahead," he said.

State Assembly member Rich Gordon, via a prerecorded message, said, as a San Mateo County Board of Supervisors member in 1997, he was an early supporter of the tunnels. "I promised it would be built in two years," he joked. He thanked the environmental leaders, the polical leaders and the Caltrans engineers for a job well done on the tunnel. "People are going to travel nationally and internationally to see this," he said. "Build a tunnel in an earthquake zone? We had to figure out a way to do it."

The chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Amy Rein Worth, celebrated the cooperation of the local, state and federal governments to build the tunnels.
"This will enable people to get around in a safe, reliable way. There will be a low impact on the environment and the local residents will experience better livability," she said.

President of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, Don Horsley, who is a former Pacifica police officer and San Mateo County sheriff, knows the safety issue about Devil's Slide all too well. "Caltrans and all the local jurisdictions have been great to work with," he said. "We are putting in a safe way to travel by car and we are putting in the new hiking and biking trails on Devil's Slide. This will bind the communities together."

The mayor of Half Moon Bay, Rick Kawalczyk, said he is thrilled the new tunnels are in."It will be safer to visit us," he said.

Pacifica Mayor Len Stone said he could speak for all of Pacifica, which rarely happens, by saying, "hallelujah." "Growing up in Montara, we always knew the status of Devil's Slide," he said. "Pacifica is excited about the new park, as well. We are excited about bringing ecotourism to our area. I first found out about the plans for the tunnels when I was biking down Montara Mountain in 1995. I was 15 years old. I'm the next generation for the people on the coast. Thanks to the tunnel advocates for leading with passion and purpose. Thank you for preserving Montara Mountain."

The widow of Tom Lantos, Annette, and her daughter, Annette, spoke of Lantos's devotion to the tunnel cause and thanked Caltrans for naming the tunnels after him."We have very little family left," the younger Annette said. "We are deeply moved. What a monument this is. Thanks to the citizen warriors, to the representatives in Congress and to those who built the tunnels."

The final speaker of the event, Zoe Kersteen-Tucker, spokesperson for Citizen's Alliance for the Tunnel, said the success celebrated this day was a remarkable win for the environment. "The inland bypass proposed as much environmental damage than traffic relief. It took the people to come up with the a better alternative," she said. The tunnels were built following the New Austrian Tunneling Method.

Tunnel facts

Northbound and southbound, each tunnel is about three-quarters of a mile long.

The twin tunnels are each 30 feet wide and 4,200 feet long, making them the second-longest in California behind the Wawona Tunnel in Yosemite National Park.

More than 400 cubic yards of dirt had to be pulled out to dig it.

The excavation involved removing about 11.4 million cubic feet of rock from inside San Pedro Mountain.

Lighting system -- 1197 high pressure sodium lights. Day/night lighting system with brightness transition at each end.

Fire protection -- 21 fire proection niches per tunnel. Alarms and linear heat detectors in place. Five fire hydrants and 20,000 feet of 12 inch pipe for fire protection.

Each tunnel is equipped with sensors that monitor heat as well as nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide levels, eight per tunnel.

Ventiliation system -- There are 16 powerful jet fans affixed to the ceiling of each tunnel to provide ventilation in the event of a fire or other incident

Traffic Control -- The tunnels are monitored by cameras 24 hours a day, with changeable electronic message signs, Tunnel operators can override motorists' car stereos to communicate during emergencies.changeable electronic message signs, AM & FM radio advisories.

Earthquakes -- seismic recording system at cross passages.

Public Transportation -- bus stops at the north and south portals.

Operations and maintenance system in place at the south end.

A waterproof membrane creates a jacket preventing ground water from infiltrating into tunnel roadways

Power and water -- both provided from Pacifica.

Roadway drainage includes oil/water seperator to handle spills.

The southern entrances to the tunnels are covered in a fake rock surface, created by a man who worked on Disneyland's Indiana Jones ride, that is designed to blend into surroundings.

Source: Caltrans

Devils Slide history
By Aaron Kinney

1879: San Mateo County builds a coastal road along Devils Slide. According to the San Mateo County Historical Association, a San Francisco newspaper provides the following description in 1912 of a drive on the Half Moon Bay-Colma Road: "As treacherous a piece of road as can be found. Death stalks in front and lurks behind in every foot of the climb to the summit."

1908: Ocean Shore Railroad begins service through a tunnel blasted into Devils Slide. The company initially planned for a top-of-the-line electric railway, but the 1906 earthquake curtailed investors' interest. The company's vision for an 80-mile railway from San Francisco to Santa Cruz was never realized.

1915: Coastside Boulevard, providing an inland route to the east of San Pedro Mountain, is completed. Farmers begin trucking their produce to markets in San Francisco using this road, reducing demand for the train.

1920: The Ocean Shore Railway ceases service. Mitch Postel, president of the San Mateo County Historical Association, said the 1906 earthquake remains a disaster that dramatically affected the coast's future development. Plans were already afoot to build communities along the line. "If it hadn't been for the earthquake, who knows?" Postel said. "It's a big question of history."

1937: Caltrans completes a 5.9-mile extension of Highway 1 traversing Devils Slide between Pacifica and Montara. It follows much of the same path as the Ocean Shore Railway.

1938: A landslide forces the first major closure of the highway at Devils Slide. There would be many slides in years to come, including in 1942, 1951, 1952, 1977, 1982, 1983, 1995 and 2006.

1950-59: By the 1950s, the road at Devils Slide had developed a reputation for danger. It was during this decade that Cal Hinton began working for the Pacifica Fire Department. He served as chief from 1970 to 1983. In his 28 years with the department, he told the historical association he worked on more than 50 incidents at Devils Slide, most of them cars off the roadway or climbers in peril. In 1955 he responded to an accident in which a San Francisco firefighter and his wife both died while driving to pick up their kids from summer camp. Children's clothing was strewed along the cliff.

1960: The California Highway Commission proposes a 7.5-mile highway of four to six lanes from Pacifica to the Half Moon Bay Airport.

1967: A San Francisco woman throws her 9- and 10-year-old children over the cliff at Devils Slide, then plunges after them to her death.

1972: The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approves the bypass. The Sierra Club and other groups file a lawsuit against Caltrans, halting the project. They propose a tunnel, which is rejected as too expensive.

1986: The California Coastal Commission approves a shorter alternative for the bypass, a 4.5-mile version that rejoins Highway 1 near Montara. Environmental groups appeal.

1996: A study shows the tunnels can be built for $148 million. County voters overwhelmingly approve Measure T in favor of the tunnel project.

2005: Caltrans breaks ground May 26 on the first phase. By this time the project is estimated to cost $270 million.

2007: A ceremony is held Sept. 17 for the beginning of tunnel excavation.

2013: The tunnels will open to traffic on Monday evening or Tuesday (March 26, 2013) morning. The final estimate for the cost of the project is $439 million, though Caltrans will not know the final price until after the tunnels open. The tunnels feature state-of-the-art safety features, including heat and carbon monoxide sensors. Each 30-foot-wide tunnel has 16 jet fans for ventilation. The tunnels will be monitored 24 hours a day from a roughly 12,000-square-foot facility near the south portal.