Devil’s Slide tunnels to cost more but be finished sooner

HALF MOON BAY — The lower of two bids on the Devil’s Slide tunnel project could bring the twin tunnels to completion one year sooner than expected — although for $32 million more than the California Department of Transportation’s $240 million estimate.

Caltrans officials unsealed two bids on phase two of the project Tuesday afternoon, one from Omaha, Neb.-based Kiewit Pacific that offered to construct the tunnels for $272 million in 1,500 days, or roughly four years.

Shea, Traylor, and Atkinson of Walnut bid $322 million and 1,900 days, the same length of time Caltrans engineers estimated it would take.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome of the bid process,” project spokesman John Cunliffe said. “On the surface the figures are way over what we’ve estimated, but when you look at the lower bid … the economic benefit of getting it in a year early is tremendous, given how vital the link is.”

Kiewit Pacific built the new Benicia-Martinez Bridge and is currently building the eastern “Skyway Segment” of the renovated San Francisco Bay Bridge, a project notorious for being long-delayed and over budget.

Plans to bypass the treacherous, unstable stretch of Highway 1 between Montara and Pacifica known as Devil’s Slide have been in the works for decades. After extensive political fighting, a plan to build two 4,200-foot-long tunnels was approved by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 1998 and construction crews broke ground in March 2005as part of the tunnels’ first phase.

Devil’s Slide has suffered several closures due to landslides. Most recently it was closed from April 2 to Aug. 4, following slides caused by the winter’s heavy rains. In the mid-1990s, the roadway was also closed for five months after similar slides.

“They’ve done a great job of shoring up the old road … but you never know what Mother Nature will do,” said Half Moon Bay Mayor Marina Fraser. “We cross our fingers that it will hold for the next five years.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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