Montara, CA - November 14, 1995 - After three decades of controversy over the unstable Devil's Slide section of Highway 1, the voters of San Mateo County will finally have a say in the matter. A coalition of citizens' and environmental organizations has come together to sponsor a ballot initiative that mandates a tunnel as the permanent solution. Save Our Coast and Citizens' Alliance for the Tunnel Solution (SOC/CATS) filed papers today at the San Mateo County courthouse for an initiative that will appear on the November 1996 county-wide ballot.
The measure would amend the Local Coastal Plan to specify construction of a tunnel rather than the Caltrans-proposed 4.5-mile highway bypass. It requires that the tunnel be consistent with the Coastal Act limits restricting Route 1 to a two-lane scenic highway and that, for safety and cost reasons, a separate trail for pedestrians and bicycles be provided outside the tunnel. The initiative's sponsors are advocating a tunnel because it would prevent the driving hazards of the bypass, protect the quality of life for coastside communities and visitors, and preserve the environment.
According to Zoe Kersteen-Tucker, spokesperson for Citizens' Alliance for the Tunnel Solution, "Coastside and bayside residents alike have been clamoring to have a voice in this issue. The initiative will offer them that voice - and it will be binding."
In light of the tunnel study to be conducted in the coming months at the request of the Federal Highway Administration and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, SOC/CATS is confident that if the study is performed in a fully impartial manner, the results will confirm the opinions of numerous tunnel experts who have come forward to say a tunnel is geologically feasible and will cost less than the bypass. "We believe in public debate and a decision of the voters concerning Devil's Slide," says Chris Thollaug, Sierra Club Devil's Slide Campaign chair and co-chair of Save Our Coast. "If the tunnel study is not objective, the voters will know it, and will respond accordingly," he adds.
Lennie Roberts, founder and co-chair of Save Our Coast, says, "Changing the Local Coastal Plan is the one effective thing voters can do to ensure that a tunnel will be built and that there will be a permanent solution."
Save Our Coast was formed in 1986 to sponsor Measure A, the landmark environmental initiative for San Mateo County. The initiative won with a 63% vote, resulting in the prohibition of onshore oil facilities for offshore drilling and strong protections for rural areas of the coast. In 1992 Save Our Coast led the successful fight to defeat Measure D, the pro-development initiative, with an overwhelming 82% "no" vote. In mounting the tunnel initiative, Save Our Coast is serving as an umbrella for the three organizations that have historically opposed the bypass at Devil's Slide: Sierra Club, Committee for Green Foothills, and Committee for the Permanent Repair of Highway 1. Twenty-five additional environmental organizations, including the Audubon Society, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earth Island Institute, and California Trout, have endorsed the tunnel alternative.
Citizens' Alliance for the Tunnel Solution is a union of the two pro-tunnel groups formed following last winter's Devil's Slide road closure, Citizens for the Tunnel and Pacifica's Tunnel Alternative for Highway 1. Together they have submitted to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors over 8,000 signatures from coastside voters supporting a tunnel solution.
To qualify for the ballot, the initiative's sponsors have until May 25, 1996 to collect 22,019 valid signatures of San Mateo County voters.