CalTrans says tunnel study to be done by own workers

Half Moon Bay Review, Sept. 13, 1995

By Eric Rice

A re-evaluation of a tunnel through Devil's Slide will be done in-house by the California Department of Transportation unless the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors requests it be done differently, a CalTrans spokesman said Tuesday.

"We're confident we're $35-$40 million apart" between the cost of a tunnel and the Martini Creek Bypass, said CalTrans spokesman Jeff Weiss. "Getting an independent opinion to confirm that doesn't seem necessary. It would be an unwise use of money.

"We would have to get some sort of decree from the Board of Supervisors to do something like that," Weiss said.

On Monday night, the Pacifica City Council, worried that a tunnel study conducted solely by CalTrans would be biased, voted 4-0 to ask the Federal Highway Administration to require CalTrans to bring in outside tunnel experts for the study. It also approved establishing a citizens' committee, to be appointed by the Pacifica City Council and Board of Supervisors, to oversee the study to ensure it is fair. Tunnel advocates also asked the Pacifica City Council to abandon its neutral stance and come out in favor of a tunnel, but the council did not.

"We need an independent study done on the tunnel to find out if that's a viable alternative to the bypass," said Councilwoman Maxine Gonsalves.

Pacifica City Manager Charlie English said that CalTrans had "readily admitted" in the past that it does not have tunnel experts on staff.

But Weiss said, "We have enough expertise to determine the cost of a tunnel. . . . We're confident our studies are within a certain degree of accuracy, within 5 percent."

Half Moon Bay Review