Commonly Asked Questions

What's wrong with the bypass?

Simply put, the bypass is a 1960's solution to a 1990's problem. The bypass would consist of four-and-a-half miles of new highway carving through Montara Mountain and bisecting McNee Ranch State Park. The cut and fill construction would result in roadbeds 79 to 104 ft. wide (wider than the Bay Bridge). Its steep 6.5% grades necessitate runaway vehicle lanes on the downslopes and passing lanes on the uphill grades. It would be shrouded in thick, dangerous fog more than half the time, and it would cost 50% more than the tunnel.

Shouldn't Caltrans know best about fixing Devil's Slide?

Caltrans' expertise lies in road construction. They are not experts when it comes to tunnels. They subcontract all tunnel design and construction, and admit they have very limited knowledge about tunnels (including costs). Caltrans has not built a tunnel since they completed the third bore of the Caldecott in 1964.

North Portal

A rendition of the north tunnel portal above Shamrock Ranch in Pacifica.
Artwork & Photography by Mitch Reid.
Large version (62K)

Would the tunnel be safer than the bypass?

Yes, because the tunnel would have no fog, it would have a very gentle 2% grade, it would be straight, and like all other tunnels in the Bay Area, it would hold up in an earthquake (unlike many freeways and bridges). In addition, Federal Highway Administration statistics show tunnels to be safer than open roads and the tunnel at Devil's Slide would meet all current Federal and industry safety guidelines.

What about emergency access in the tunnel?

Even a 46-foot wide tunnel would meet all federal safety standards, with plenty of room for emergency vehicles. In fact, it would be wider and more accessible than the Caldecott Tunnels.

Is there funding available for the tunnel?

We believe that Congress will look favorably on a project that saves the taxpayer's money. Representative Tom Lantos, who obtained $50 million in emergency funds for repair or reconstruction of Highway 1 in 1984, recently wrote, "Should these funds be deobligated, I would seek new funding. It is not, however, feasible to reallocate the funds without the cooperation of Caltrans." This suggests that Caltrans, not the funding, is the last obstacle to the tunnel solution.

How much would it cost to maintain the tunnel?

It would probably cost between $300,000 and $400,000 to maintain the tunnel each year, roughly the same as the bypass. In fact, maintenance costs for the bypass will rise faster over the years as the exposed roadway ages. And, since the tunnel route would be shorter and much less steep, commuters would save over $1,000,000 annually in gas and vehicle maintenance.

Bypass near Pacifica
A rendition of the same area as above with the proposed bypass. The steep, winding bypass takes you up and through the fog in the distance.
Artwork by Andy Forward.
Photography by Mitch Reid.
Large version (54K)

Which solution is better for the environment?

The tunnel would have virtually no environmental impact. It would not affect the State Park lands, the natural habitats of Montara Mountain, the ocean environment, or the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. The proposed bypass would permanently scar a verdant mountain range, bury unique coastal habitats under massive fills, destroy a rare steelhead trout spawning ground and send silt from unrevegetated cuts and fills into the ocean and the Marine Sanctuary.

Will the tunnel cost more than the bypass?

No. Caltrans currently estimates the cost of the proposed bypass to be over $90 million, with more redesign engineering to come. Several world-renowned tunnel experts estimate the complete cost of a tunnel (including design and construction of approach roads) at $50-60 million.

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