Tunnel Initiative Filed!
After three decades
of controversy over the unstable Devil's Slide section of Highway 1, the
voters of San Mateo County will finally have a say in the matter. A coalition
of citizens and environmental organizations has come together to sponsor
a ballot initiative that will guarantee a tunnel as the permanent solution.
Save Our Coast (SOC) and Citizens' Alliance for the Tunnel Solution
(CATS) filed papers on November 14 at the San Mateo County courthouse for
an initiative that will appear on the county-wide ballot in November, 1996.
The measure would amend the Local Coastal Plan to specify construction of
a tunnel rather than the Caltrans-proposed 4.5-mile highway bypass. It requires
that the tunnel be consistent with the Coastal Act limit of two lanes and
that, for safety and cost reasons, a separate trail for pedestrians and
bicycles be provided outside the tunnel. The initiative's sponsors are advocating
a tunnel because it would prevent the driving hazards of the bypass, protect
the quality of life for the coastside communities and visitors, and preserve
the environment of Montara Mountain.
According to Zoe Tucker, spokesperson for Citizens' Alliance for the Tunnel,
"Coastside and bayside residents alike have been clamoring to have
a voice in this issue. The initiative will offer that voice - and it will
be a binding one."
Citizens' Alliance for the Tunnel Solution is a union of Citizens for the
Tunnel and Pacifica's Tunnel Alternative for Highway 1, the two pro-tunnel
groups formed following last winter's Devil's Slide road closure. Together
they have submitted to the San Mateo Board of Supervisors over 8,000 signatures
from coastside residents in support of the tunnel solution.
With regard to the tunnel study to be conducted in the coming months at
the request of the Federal Highway Administration and the San Mateo County
Board of Supervisors, SOC/CATS is confident that if the study is performed
in a fully impartial manner, the results will confirm the opinions of numerous
tunnel experts who have come forward to say a tunnel is geologically feasible
and will cost significantly less than the bypass. "We believe in public
debate and a decision of the voters concerning Devil's Slide," says
Chris Thollaug, co-chair of the Sierra Club Devil's Slide Campaign and spokesperson
for Save Our Coast. "If the study is not objective, the voters will
know, and will respond accordingly." he adds.
Lennie Roberts, founder and co-chair of Save Our Coast, says, "Changing
the Local Coastal Plan is the one effective thing voters can do to ensure
that a tunnel will be built and that there will be a permanent solution."
Save Our Coast was formed in 1986 to sponsor Measure A, the landmark environmental
initiative for San Mateo County. The initiative won with a 63% vote, resulting
in the prohibition of onshore oil facilities for offshore drilling and strong
protections for rural areas of the coast. In 1992 Save Our Coast led the
successful fight to defeat Measure D, the pro-development initiative, with
an overwhelming 82% "no" vote. With the Tunnel Initiative, Save
Our Coast is serving as an umbrella for the three organizations that have
historically opposed the bypass at Devil's Slide: Sierra Club, Committee
for Green Foothills, and Committee for the Permanent Repair of Highway 1.
Twenty-five other environmental organizations, including the Audubon Society,
Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earth Island Institute, and
California Trout, support the Tunnel Solution.
The initiative's sponsors are planning to collect signatures from 32,000
registered voters in San Mateo County by the end of May to qualify the initiative
for the November, 1996 ballot.
Picture Credits: The south portal of a tunnel at Devil's Slide
(Rendition by Mitch Reid)