A former tunnel engineer has come up with a proposal to solve the long-running Devil's Slide debate which he believes would pacify both tunnel and bypass proponents.
Hermann Zutraun, a retired engineer who worked on the design of BART's underground tunnels through San Francisco, proposes bypassing both the bypass and the tunnel. Instead, he suggests two sections of road along the east perimeter of McNee Ranch linked by 2,800-foot-long tunnel.
The alignment would decrease the highest elevation the road would reach to 500 feet, thereby reducing the grade of the road from 7 to 5 percent.
Zutraun, who is 89 and lives in San Francisco, became interested in the Devil's Slide debate during the closure of Highway 1 earlier this year while visiting a friend in Half Moon Bay. He is pushing his proposal, he said, in hopes that it may satisfy both sides of the debate. He wants it to be considered when an independent analysis of the feasibility of a tunnel is studied.
"Whatever the result will be (of the recently approved independent tunnel study), none of the opposing parties will be satisfied with the . . . decision," he said. "There will be no end to litigation and delays.
"The idea for the alternative germinated for quite a while until it seemed the two sides were at loggerheads," he added.
Jeff Weiss, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, showed the proposal to Devil's Slide Project Manager Dennis Bosler, who dismissed it as unimpressive.
"It didn't jump out and grab anyone," Weiss said. He said it is problematic, in part, because of new right of way acquisition costs and new environmental studies it would prompt.
Zutraun's alignment would follow the left bank of Martini Creek through a remote area of McNee Ranch State Park to an elevation of 500 feet, enter a tunnel and exit at the same elevation 2,800 feet later in another remote part of the park. The road would rejoin the existing Highway 1 just northeast of the approved bypass route.
Zutraun believes his proposal would reduce costs because it would reduce the length of the road from the approved 4.5-mile Martini Creek Bypass by as much as one mile. The tunnel would also be cheaper, he predicted, because at 2,800 feet long _ compared with environmentalists' proposed 4,600-foot-long tunnel _ it could be ventilated with a simple shaft rising up through to the top of the mountain, instead of an expensive electronic maintenance system which would require full-time monitoring. His alignment would also omit the need for three expensive bridges.
Also, the road's width could be reduced to two lanes from the bypass' three lanes because uphill passing lanes would not be needed due to the decreased grade and maximum elevation.
"With appropriate construction procedures, excavated material from both the tunnel and the shaft can be used for the final configuration of the access roads to the tunnel," he said.
"The removal of (the road) from the main section of the park should satisfy the present opponents," he said. "CalTrans' right of way for (the bypass) located within McNee Ranch State Park could be swapped . . . "