Eshoo asks feds to keep tunnel study independent

Half Moon Bay Review, May 15, 1996

By Eric Rice

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Atherton, asked U.S. Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena last week to ensure that a study of the tunnel alternative for Devil's Slide remain independent by continuing to have a Technical Advisory Committee approve revisions to the study's scope of work.

Eshoo stepped in at the urging of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, particularly Supervisor Ted Lempert, who last month accused the California Department of Transportation of trying to prejudice the study.

"Devil's Slide is one of the most contentious issues that the community has every faced," Eshoo said in a statement. "The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has unanimously asked for an independent study of a tunnel alternative, and I believe that Secretary Pena's involvement is needed to guarantee that they get it. Neither pro-tunnel nor pro-bypass advocates will be well-served if there is any question about the integrity of this study."

In her letter to Pena, Eshoo suggested that the study would benefit from oversight by Tony Caserta, the Federal Highway Administration's tunnel expert on the three-person Technical Advisory Committee, along with CalTrans' appointee Jim Roberts and the supervisors' appointee Ralph Trapani. CalTrans management wants the study to focus on predetermined tunnel sizes rather than allowing the consultant to decide what should be studied.

Trapani has proposed that the consultant chosen for the study, Woodward-Clyde, be allowed to verify which tunnel alignment, profile, and cross section represents the most feasible tunnel solution. But CalTrans has balked, saying the proposed study of five alternatives is broad enough.

Trapani is also urging that a Tunnel Feasibility Review panel be used to ensure expert peer review and technical assistance since CalTrans lacks recent experience in highway tunnels in mountainous terrain.

A CalTrans spokesman said he was forbidden by his bosses from commenting on Devil's Slide.

Eshoo also urged that the study be completed by Oct. 15 so that the results would be available to voters in time for the Devil's Slide ballot initiative, which is expected to be on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Half Moon Bay Review