This roadway to Yosemite is getting a makeover to protect against rockslides

Local News

MARIPOSA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE)- An important route into Yosemite National Park is getting restored with added protection against rockslides.

A rockslide shut down Highway 140 in 2006 and now CALTRANS has begun an ambitious project to remove a mountain of rock and restore two-way traffic to the highway.

In the years since, a one-lane road takes traffic across a narrow bridge around the rockslide area.  Each direction of traffic must take turns, waiting several minutes for lines of other cars to use the roadway.

Now a fleet of 20 trucks will spend three months clearing 100,000 tons of rock before construction on a covered replacement highway.  In 2019 the cost of the project was estimated at $175 million and includes a plan for remote-control operation of trucks and heavy machinery in the event of more rockslides.

Caltrans public information office Bob Highfill says, “In May I believe we began the process of scaling the mountain face and that means knocking down overhanging boulders and outcroppings. That was done with a combination of equipment and also some controlled charges. By bringing down that potentially dangerous rock will protect the public and of course the workers.”

Concept renderings show a roofed highway to protect traffic from any future rockslides.  Construction on this phase of the project is expected to begin next fall.  “Eleven segments hydraulically launched and what makes it unique is some of this will actually be launched around a curve.”

Progress has been hampered by several smaller rockslides since 2006.  Highfill says, “What we’re going to be able to do this time is if we’re working and something does happen — another event happens — we will be able to use remote control and operate the machinery, the equipment, the trucks by remote control and that will allow work to continue even if another slide does occur.”

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