The prospects for at least partial federal funding for a Highway 1 tunnel at Devil's Slide took another turn for the better last week when the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted to include funding for the project.
The vote was the second victory for the tunnel in as many weeks, as federal legislators quickly maneuvered what looked like a rocky road to project funding. Funding for the project had been left out of the supplemental disaster relief bill for 1997.
Funding for the project was included by amendment, however. The 16-12 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee was spearheaded by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, who is a member of the Appropriations Committee.
"It took some personal calls by Senator Boxer," said Boxer press spokesman David Sandretti.
He said the vote marked an important milestone for the tunnel.
"It put the Senate on the record saying this is an important project," he said.
While specifically listing the Highway 1 project at Devil's Slide as eligible for funding, the amendment does not specify how much money should be made available for it. Sandretti said the disaster relief bill will provide California with a set amount of money and it is then up to the state to prioritize how it is spent.
A definitive cost estimate for the tunnel has yet to be released, but past estimates have put it anywhere between $83 million and $148 million.
The Senate's vote was preceded a week earlier by action by the House of Representatives to earmark $52 million for Highway 1 repairs in its own disaster relief bill.
If the Senate Appropriations Committee's bill is approved by the full Senate, both bills would be sent to conference to work out the differences. The bill was being debated Monday.
Sandretti said the House version concerning Devil's Slide would be the more likely of the two to be brought forward for the President's consideration.