PACIFICA (CBS SF) – Hundreds gathered on a coastal San Mateo County hillside Monday to celebrate the opening of two tunnels that will replace a notorious stretch of state Highway 1 at Devil’s Slide.
The event marked the completion of the $439 million Tom Lantos Tunnels, which bypass a steep, winding portion of coastal highway between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay that has long been susceptible to rockslide-related closures.
On Monday morning, under gray skies, a crowd gathered outside the tunnels, named after the late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, whose former Congressional seat is now filled by Jackie Speier.
Addressing the crowd, state Sen. Jerry Hill said that one of the most devastating landslides along Devil’s Slide forced a closure of Highway 1 that lasted for several months in 1995.
The closure turned Pacifica into “the world’s biggest cul-de-sac” and generated momentum to find a permanent solution to traveling safely and securely through the area all year round.
Caltrans had initially proposed an overland by-pass route east of the troubled roadway, a proposal that met with fierce opposition from local citizens who were concerned about the impact of constructing a four-lane highway over Montara Mountain.
Pro-tunnel advocates—who eventually called themselves “tunnelistas”—worked tirelessly to bring the issue to San Mateo County voters, who in 1996 passed Measure T and launched the planning process for what would become the state’s newest tunnel to be built since Oakland’s Caldecott Tunnel in 1964.