Fixing Yosemite road could cost as much as $378 million
MARIPOSA, Calif. – It could cost as much as $378 million to rebuild a key route to Yosemite National Park that was buried by a massive rock slide last year, according to the California Department of Transportation.The most expensive option would include a mile-long tunnel through a mountain to permanently restore Highway 140, the western approach to the popular park.Five lower-cost choices start at $35 million to build bypass bridges and a short road along the wall of the Merced River canyon.The road was closed for three months after the April 2006 rock slide about 12 miles west of Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance. Two temporary, one-lane bridges now let motorists cross the river to get around the debris and return them to Highway 140 beyond the slide.But large tour buses can’t use the temporary detour, and the highway often is the only route that remains open in winter storms.”It’s a vital highway, not only for tour buses but from an employee perspective,” said park spokesman Scott Gediman. “A lot of park and concession employees live in Mariposa and Midpines, and they need to use this road.”Transportation officials want to choose a plan to rebuild the highway by next year, start construction in 2009, and finish by 2012.Other options include $71 million to remove 70,000 tons of debris and restore the original highway. Removing the debris and building a tunnel-like structure through the slide area to protect vehicles would also cost a projected $71 million.The three remaining possibilities all include building permanent bridges to cross the river and bypass the slide area, following the current detour. Alternatives include carving out a portion of the adjoining mountain for $53 million, a short tunnel for $77 million, or mounting the roadway on columns alongside the mountain for $35 million.
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