Dewatering advocates are turning the tables on Devil's Slide tunnel supporters, demanding that their alternative be fully studied, just as tunnel supporters demanded of bypass supporters years ago.
To press their case, supporters of a plan to remove water from the mountain fronting Highway 1 at Devil's Slide, thereby permanently repairing the perpetually problem stretch of highway, met with officials of the California Department of Transportation last week. They also were allotted time during the monthly tunnel planning session scheduled for today, April 16, to make their pitch to all the government agencies involved in planning the tunnel.
"If the tunnel got a study, the (permanent) repair needs to get just as thorough a study," urged dewatering supporter Vic Abadie, a Montara resident and geologist. He was accompanied at last week's meeting with CalTrans by geologist Dr. John Hovland, who has studied dewatering, and Coastsiders Nancy Maule, Roger Goodrich, Michael Murphy, Elisabeth Vespremi and Chris Church.
Zoe Kersteen-Tucker, a leader in last fall's pro-tunnel campaign who continues to work on getting a tunnel built, acknowledged the similarity between what dewatering supporters are now demanding, and what tunnel supporters demanded when the inland bypass was still the preferred alternative. She said she does not have any qualms with dewatering supporters pressing their alternative, but only if it does not sidetrack or delay the planning process for the tunnel.
"Everything I've read would lead me to believe (dewatering) is not a permanent solution," Kersteen-Tucker said. "I'm not willing to back off the tunnel at this point and allow CalTrans to stall a permanent solution. I'm so sensitive to slowing or bogging down the process at this point, knowing how much time has been put in."
According to Abadie and other dewatering supporters, repairing the existing road must be studied because the text for Measure T specifies that both it and a tunnel are allowed. The measure reads that a tunnel should be given high priority for highway funds, but also specifies that the existing alignment be maintained and repaired until a tunnel is completed.
"Any alternative to the tunnel except the repair and reconstruction of the existing road, shall require approval by a majority of the voters of San Mateo County," the initiative states.
"You believe San Mateo County voters overwhelmingly voted for a tunnel," Abadie told CalTrans. "You are incorrect. San Mateo County voters voted for Measure T."
Half Moon Bay resident Roger Goodrich claimed many of CalTrans' own engineers believe dewatering could work, but feel hamstrung by the current political push to get a tunnel built.
A study performed last year by Hovland asserted that future slippage of the existing road could be prevented by keeping water from seeping into the slide plane. That could be done, Hovland concluded, through a series of drainage wells and tunnels. He estimated the cost at less than $10 million, compared with the tunnel, which is estimated to cost as much as $148 million.
CalTrans disputes the slide can be effectively dewatered. The agency's geotechnical staff reviewed Hovland's report and concluded dewatering would not offer the same level of certainty as a tunnel.