The popular Surfer’s Beach area of Highway 1 along the northern coast of Half Moon Bay’s city limits has been in danger of eroding and the possibility of major storms this year, due to El Nino, has increased local anxiety about a catastrophic failure of the sole north/south artery along the Coast. Caltrans has announced it will begin a long-awaited repair of that section of roadway during Thanksgiving week, with an estimated completion date in January 2016.
“The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) along with the County of San Mateo will begin a construction project on November 23, 2015, to install Rock Slope Protection along an approximately 175-linear foot section of eroding ocean bluff adjacent to Route 1 at Surfer’s Beach in the City of Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County,” stated an official Caltrans release.
The project’s objective is to reduce erosion and prevent the collapse of the Route 1 highway embankment while also enhancing coastal access and recreation. This project would provide an interim solution to reduce erosion. Construction activities will be performed during the day between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Some night work may be required, according to Caltrans.
Construction signs will be posted to advise the public of construction. Minimal lane closures may take place during construction. Route 1 will not be impacted with any detours. The pedestrian trail will be temporarily detoured. Final construction for this project will be completed by January, 2016.
While the gradually eroding section of Highway 1 has long been known to travelers and residents, it required a comprehensive and collaborative effort to arrive at a solution.
In September of 2013, Supervisor Don Horsley initiated conversations with Caltrans and the City of Half Moon Bay regarding the opportunity to form a partnership to proactively protect Highway 1 at Surfer’s Beach.
Horsley knew that if a project was not done, the highway would surely fall into the ocean due to coastal erosion. Waiting for the highway to collapse and fixing the problem under an emergency declaration was not the desired option.
Any failure of the roadway would negatively impact the quality of life for residents, damage the local economy which is heavily dependent on tourism and inhibit people’s ability to access the natural resource of the San Mateo County Coastside.
The Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce estimates that 80% of working coastside residents commute over the hill to work. The segment of Highway 1 that is in danger of failure is a critical route for kids getting to school. It connects Half Moon Bay, Miramar and Pescadero to the only emergency room on the Coastside in the County. It is located just south of Pillar Point Harbor playing a critical role for freight for the commercial fishing industry. The loss of the highway would turn an existing congested, although crucial, traffic area a disaster.
San Mateo County had received grant funding in 2014 but was unable to convince Caltrans and powerful regulatory agencies to agree on a project scope or even how to fund the overall project. In fact, when Supervisor Horsley initiated conversations with Caltrans, the likelihood of agreeing on a scope and funding agreement was limited.
For more than eight months, the County and Caltrans held regular conference calls to discuss the very real threat of losing Highway 1 at Surfer’s Beach, what type of project would be needed to protect Highway 1 there along with a variety of environmental and regulatory constraints.
Following long hours of conversations and countless emails, and some help from State Senator Jerry Hill and Assemblymembers Rich Gordon and Kevin Mullin, the County and Caltrans finally agreed on a scope of work, project priorities and funding agreement.
The County and Caltrans then negotiated with the California Coastal Commission to identify a project scope of work that was agreeable to Coastal Commission staff.
The agreed-upon project will consist of a retaining wall to protect the highway on an interim measure. A condition of the Coastal Development Permit stipulates that this project is intended to protect Highway 1 only until a long-term solution is identified. The project will also consist of a 400-foot long segment of the Coastal Trail to complete the gap currently existing at the project site. A formal staircase providing safe pedestrian access to the beach will replace the inaccessible and deteriorating existing structure.
In August 2014, the County entered into an agreement with WRECO, Inc. for consulting services to develop all necessary technical reports and project designs. Between September 2014 and June 2015, all environmental assessments were completed, federal regulatory consultations convened and permits obtained.
“I am extremely proud of San Mateo County’s ability to foster this collaborative solution to a very real and potentially devastating infrastructure challenge,” said Supervisor Horsley. “I am particularly proud of my Senior Legislative Aide Nicholas Calderon, who was instrumental in bringing this project to a successful launch. I am certain the community will be pleased when they see that Highway 1 will be more stable at the popular Surfer’s Beach. This will be a major benefit to the entire community, not to mention a general peace of mind for commuters.”
For the latest road conditions, try Caltrans Quick Map: http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov
Or follow Caltrans on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/CaltransD4
You can go to the project website to be added to the group e-mail list or get more information on the project at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/1surfersbeach/