Bicyclists, hikers and advocates of keeping the Devil's Slide section of Highway 1 right where it is at Devil's Slide received news to cheer about this week.
The San Mateo County Planning and Building Department is recommending that the existing Highway 1 alignment be used as a permanent biking and hiking trail. Meanwhile, county planners are also recommending that the board direct the California Department of Transportation to evaluate the dewatering proposal for the existing highway as a formal alternative in the forthcoming environmental study of the Devil's Slide tunnel.
The recommendations were made in advance of an important meeting of the Board of Supervisors Tuesday at which supervisors are expected to decide whether to make accommodations for bicycles inside or outside the Devil's Slide tunnel.
Tunnel supporter Chris Thollaug, who has lobbied hard to retain the existing stretch of highway for use by bikers and pedestrians, welcomed the recommendation. In recent weeks, bicycle enthusiasts worried over concern within the county Public Works Department that taking control of the sagging roadway could be an expensive undertaking, leading to a recommendation from the Planning Department against taking it over.
Planners bolstered their recommendation with language in the Local Coastal Program indicating "bicyclists and pedestrians were intended to be accommodated along existing Highway 1."
"I think that's the way to go," Thollaug said. "It's such a resource. It would be crazy to put up a barbed wire fence and keep people out."
The staff is also recommending that an alternative bike/pedestrian trail be identified, possibly San Pedro Mountain Road, in the event a future slide prevents the existing roadway from being used.
Meanwhile, dewatering advocates may be on the verge of winning one of the battles they have been fighting for several months. Planners are recommending that dewatering _ a proposal by Berkeley Geologist H. John Hovland to remove the water from San Pedro Mountain to stabilize the slide plane _ be fully studied to ensure environmental studies of the tunnel are able to withstand legal challenge.
Last month, CalTrans officials said they had studied the issue in-house and considered it dead and would not study it any more unless asked to do so by the Board of Supervisors.
"We do not disagree with CalTrans," the Planning Department's report states. "However, we believe dewatering Highway 1 should be evaluated as an alternative in the environmental document. This will ensure that the final environmental document considers all the feasible alternatives and can thereby be approved without unnecessary delay."
Dewatering advocate Nancy Maule reacted cautiously to the county's recommendation.
"It's good they're going to study it, but I really want them to consider doing it."
In addition to consideration of the matter at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Hovland is scheduled to give a presentation on dewatering to a group of tunnel advocates the following day.