Caltrans, business owners and development interests wanted to push a 4.5-mile bypass over the mountain, but environmentalists fought them at every turn of the road. Meanwhile, the existing roadway kept sliding into the ocean when it rained, frustrating everyone.
After more than a quarter century, it ought to be apparent that no bypass will ever be built. It's a dead issue. Bury it.
A tunnel is the real hope for relief from monster wintertime commutes into San Francisco around the horn through Half Moon Bay and the city of San Mateo. Measure T on the San Mateo County ballot in November would authorize the construction of a mile-long tunnel through Montara Mountain at Devils Slide.
Opponents of the initiative want to hold out for a bypass. They say opting for a tunnel means forfeiting millions of dollars in federal money earmarked for a bypass.
Well, no federal money is a sure thing whether a road is above ground or below. But a huge local vote in favor of a tunnel would certainly impress Washington law-makers, who, after all, are political animals themselves. And isn't bringing home the bacon what voters sent Reps. Tom Lantos and Anna Eshoo to Washington to do?
San Mateo's coast is a national treasure, featuring spectacular ocean views and craggy hills, largely unscarred by ticky-tacky development. A bypass would rip a ribbon of concrete through parkland and wildlife habitat. Drivers would battle thick fog that clings to coastal peaks.
For us, the debate clincher is economic. Highway 1 is a lifeline. The health of the Coastside economy demands a permanent solution to perennial road washouts. A tunnel will be built because there's strong, fresh momentum behind it. A bypass is yesterday's news.
Restaurateurs, hoteliers and shopkeepers must have a reliable road to their establishments. Otherwise, tourists will stay away in droves. Commuters won't put up with gargantuan detours winter after winter. Many will move away, and home values will sink.
If you favor turning the coastside into a backwater, cast your ballot against the tunnel. Otherwise, vote for Measure T. It's the only way to get there from here.