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The Devil’s Slide Tunnels south of Pacifica and north of Half Moon Bay are finally opening after decades of environmental battles and years of construction.

The tunnels are meant to solve the safety and erosion problems that have plagued that notorious stretch of Highway 1 since it was built.

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The new tunnel consists of two bores each about 4,200 feet long and each with one lane and wide shoulder. The cutting edge tunnels have been a major engineering project and will feature jet-powered exhaust fans and carbon monoxide sensors.

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A couple hundred people turned out for today’s ribbon cutting ceremony including Congresswoman Jackie Speier and the wife and daughter of the late Congressman, Tom Lantos whose lobbying efforts help lead to the construction of the new tunnels. Also present at the opening ceremony was the Half Moon Bay High School marching band and a number of environmental activists who pushed for the tunnels.

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Environmentalists who had agitated for the tunnels, instead of a highway bypass, are known as “tunnelistas.” Among them was Ann Forrister, who was there under an alias, “My name is Captain Tunnel, and I am wearing red tights, black shorts, a red cape, tunnel vision glasses, a red hat. I’m celebrating the tunnel”

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A parade of antique cars were the first vehicles to drive through the new tunnel.

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Pacifica resident Mike Mooney holds a picture of himself next to a stretch of Devil’s Slide during one of the more memorable highway closures.

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Two new bridges connect Highway 1 to the tunnels and bypass red-legged frog habitat in the valley below.

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The 439-million dollar tunnels are the first to open in California in nearly fifty years and are the longest tunnels in the state. CalTrans plans to open the tunnels to traffic tomorrow morning.

As for the old stretch of highway with breathtaking views? It will soon open to hikers and cyclists.

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This video shows a CalTrans bus carrying select members of the public and media driving through the west tunnel. The footage is sped up and does not show the entire length of the tunnel; it focuses on the entrance and exit.

Andrea Kissack contributed to this report. Photos and video by Jenny Oh.

At Last: Devil’s Slide Tunnels Open 29 April,2013Molly Samuel

Author

Molly Samuel

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.

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