Devil’s Slide closure has adverse effects on Skyline

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Highway 1 was closed at Devil’s Slide on April 2 when sensors in the pavement detected potential landslides. Shortly after, several boulders fell from the mountainside, blocking the highway. A month later, Devil’s Slide is still closed indefinitely and is causing problems for Skyline students and faculty who live on the coast anywhere south of Pacifica.

The closure of Highway 1 has made getting to classes nearly impossible for some Skyline attendees.

“I know of two who have been adversely affected,” Skyline professor Jeff Westfall said in an email interview. “One has begun attending irregularly; the other has moved to the city with friends. Commuting time aside, the increased commuting adds additional stress and complication to the already complicated lives of students (and teachers) here at Skyline.”

With the inconvenience to students, attendence is likely to drop in coming semesters.

“It will affect Summer for sure,” said Sandra Irber, Skyline’s Director of College Development, Marketing and Public Relations.

In 1995 Devil’s Slide was closed for 158 days, costing nearly $3 million to fix. Since the construction of Highway 1 began in 1935, Devil’s Slide has been plagued by landslides and erosion. The first major slide occurred in 1940, closing much of the road.

The most recent rock slide occurred in nearly the exact location of the geological event that closed the highway more than a decade ago.

Plans for a tunnel system to avoid the dangerous Devil’s Slide have been in the making since 1973 when the Sierra club proposed the tunnel as an alternative to other potentially damaging construction. At first the idea was rejected, but in 1996 Measure T was introduced into the San Mateo Ballot. Measure T would allow the construction of a tunnel as a permanent alternative to Devil’s Slide.

In the most recent plan, San Pedro mountain would have two tunnels, each about 30 feet wide and 4,200 feet long, drilled into the mountainside. The Devil’s Slide Tunnels Project should be complete in 2011.

“Let’s just hope that we can survive the four or five years, or however long that tunnel construction is going to take,” Irber said.