The Great Highway should be passable once more by the beginning of June, months after relentless waves ate so far into the bluff-riding road that it was closed.
The Department of Public Works has also completed a controversial 425-foot wall to keep the waves at bay for the time being, though environmental organizations say that solution will cause more damage than it saves in the long run.
The bluffs along San Francisco’s Pacific Coast have been eroding for years, but this year’s immense waves, strengthened by an El Niño climate pattern, chewed off close to 70 feet of bluff in some areas.
The worst hit was a 900-foot stretch of coast along the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard. City officials declared an emergency in January after the cliffs retreated all the way to the roadway, worried that further erosion could compromise a 14-foot-tall sewage tunnel under the highway.
Officials initially proposed building a 900-foot rock wall to stall further erosion, but after protests from environmental groups that it would destroy habitat and could eventually cause more erosion, Public Works agreed to reduce the proposal to 425 feet. It also agreed to remove some of the existing rubble on the beach.
That rock wall was completed a few weeks ago, said Public Works spokeswoman Christine Falvey, at a cost of $1.75 million. State and federal reimbursements are being sought.
This week, Public Works will start restructuring the Great Highway so one of the two southbound lanes can be used. Until now, southbound drivers have had to detour around the closure.
Meanwhile, engineers are considering designs for a more extensive fix to the cliffs that would allow the entire road to be reopened — hopefully by the end of the summer, she said.
Josh Berry, environmental director for the Save the Waves Coalition, said the groups are not thrilled that the rock revetment was built, but were glad it was reduced in size by half. He said the only permanent solution will be to remove the sewer line and road from the bluffs, remove all the rock from the beach, and allow nature to take its course.
He said The City needs to quit its habit of paying attention to the problem only when there’s an
Cost: $1.75 million
- Installed a 425-foot rock revetment
- Removed 1,000 tons of debris from the beach
- Temporary southbound one-lane roadway
- Bluff top and bluff face stabilization
- Southbound two-lane road open by the end of the summer
Source: San Francisco Department of Public Works