Devil's Slide Bypass Readies for Debut

NBC Bay Area takes a tour of a Highway tunnel decades in the making

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    NEWSLETTERS

    They are putting the finishing touches on the Devil's Slide Highway 1 bypass. Joe Rosato Jr. reports. (Published Thursday, Jan 10, 2013)

    For one of the most exciting transportation projects to hit the Bay Area in decades, there is not a lot of excitement in the new Devil's Slide tunnels.
      
    With the 4,200 foot tunnels pretty much done, a smattering of workers went about the not-so-glamorous chores of testing systems, paving parking lots and picking out colors for a retaining wall.

    Not so exciting, indeed.  
     
    "I sometimes compare it to when you're building a car," said Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus.  "The car is finished, but right now we're hooking up the lights, we're hooking up the radio, the GPS, the airbag."
      
    In this case, the car is loaded with the deluxe package. The two tunnels have 32 massive industrial fans to blow out toxic fumes in the event of a fire. There are 42 emergency call box stations and ten digital sign boards. There is a nearby control center where Caltrans will monitor activities inside the tunnels around the clock. 
       
    "We have just about every state-of-the-art safety system that is available," said Haus.
      
    On Tuesday, the most exciting activity inside the tunnels was a California fire marshal running tests on the emergency fire hoses. As a group of workers turned on the hose, a stream of water poured along the tunnel's new roadway and into an underground drain. The marshal looked on and wrote something on her clipboard.

    Test over.
       
    Last February, Caltrans estimated the tunnels would open to traffic December 2012. But the litany of small jobs piled up. Caltrans now says the opening will happen sometime in the first quarter of 2013.   
       
    "The closer we get to it we'll have a better idea," said Haus.

    "We'll let everyone know once we do decide on a date."  
        
    Whatever that date is, locals are looking forward to the stability the tunnels are expected to bring to the janky stretch of Highway One between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, which has been known to wash out in winter rains.       
      
    "It is really going to help bridge the two communities together,"said Courtney Conlon, head of the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce. "They can go up down the coast without having to worry about safety issues."

    Conlon said nearby residents are also excited about plans to convert the bypassed stretch of Highway One into a coastal walking and biking trail. Conlon said Pacifica plans to run a shuttle service to take visitors, along with their surfboards and bicycles, up to the trails.

    "That's probably going to be the most panoramic view," said Conlon.

    For now, excitement over the coming view will have to take a backseat to sensor testing, road paving and crews trying out a new stoplight inside the tunnel.

    No one said progress is exciting.