The journey from San Francisco to the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel along coastal Highway 1 has always been scenic, but now it's a lot safer, thanks to two brand new tunnels that run through the mountainside behind the precarious, landslide-prone cliffs of Devil's Slide.
The Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil's Slide, as they are officially called, opened to public on March 26, promising to eliminate the extended road closures due to landslides that have plagued the aptly named Devil's Slide for years. The worst closure came in 1995, when a landslide closed the road for 158 days, greatly impacting resident life and tourism to the coast.
A multimillion dollar project, the tunnels are touted as state-of-art and -- at 30 feet wide and 4,200 feet long -- the second-longest tunnels in California, behind the Wawona Tunnel in Yosemite National Park. The excavation involved removing 11.4 million cubic feet of rock from inside San Pedro Mountain. The total construction took six years, but the controversy over what to do about the notoriously tricky Devil's Slide has been around for decades. Concerns about where, or whether, a tunnel or highway should be built, and what effects it would have on wetlands, wildlife, plants, noise pollution, and visual aesthetics have been at the center of public debate for 30 years.
The opening of this tunnel is something of a victory for environmentalists and residents of the coast. The California Department of Transportation was initially planning a 4.5-mile freeway bypass to cut inland, which would have drastically reduced the size of McNee Ranch State Park, but the community actively opposed the proposal for an inland route and compromised instead with the tunnels. These tunnels now represent the commitment of locals and environmental activists to preserve the area's open spaces and rugged, natural beauty.
At the time of this writing, the pedestrian and bike path that was initially promised as a part of the reconstruction and excavation plan has yet to open. However, there are clearly marked bike lanes inside the tunnels.
Stay at the coastal, eco-friendly, and easily accessible Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel.