Devil’s Slide not slipping away

Caltrans summoned its inner Babe Ruth and Joe Namath on Tuesday, calling its own shots and predicting victory over the Devil's Slide closure by mid-September.

“It's not a negotiable deadline,” spokesman John Cunliffe said. “The road will be open Sept. 15.”

Yesterday marked 50 percent completion of the Devil's Slide project, which began May 13 after spring rains knocked out the road on April 2.

Crews, who worked day and night for 52 consecutive days before receiving a day off on July Fourth, are installing 184 tiebacks, a system of cables set in concrete that will anchor uphill and downhill concrete retaining walls to the ground 100 to 200 feet below the surface, below what is called the “sliding mass.”

The last repair, in 1995, was similar to theproject, but it was only necessary to drill about 35 feet into the mountain to repair the slide.

Caltrans engineer David Pang said the goal is to tie the sliding mass into the mountain using the tiebacks, which are 90 percent completed, by setting cables in grout inside the mountain and bolting them off at the surface. With 300,000 pounds of pressure on each tieback, the cables anchoring the road will be essentially squeezing the road together.

“Each one of those is like a huge elastic band,” Cunliffe said. Even if material is lost below the road bed, the project is designed for the road to stay in place.

The project has been allocated $7 million, and Cunliffe didn't have a prediction or a number for the final cost. The road is designed to last at least until the Devil's Slide tunnel opens.

“You're never going to stop it,” Pang said of the constantly moving hillside. “This is to get us to the tunnel.”

Don Eagleston, the executive vice president of the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce, praised Caltrans for maintaining their schedule but said Pacifica residents wouldn't be happy until September, when they see the progress.

“We're glad this is on-time, but until its finished there won't be any smiles,” Eagleston said.

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