El Portal Road in Danger of Collapsing

December 22, 2008 2:14:42 PM PST
Construction crews are working around the clock to finish repairing a dangerous section of road that leads into Yosemite Valley.This week the Park Service began shutting down El Portal Road from 10pm to 6am Monday through Thursday, and re-routing traffic onto Highway 41.

Construction crews are working against the weather and racing against the clock to repair a crumbling quarter mile stretch of El Portal Road in Yosemite. They need to build protective walls down to the Merced River before it starts rising.

Adrienne Freeman, Yosemite Park Ranger: "Obviously with the river rising in the summer season we'll also see an increase in visitors and we do want to maintain as much visitor access as we can."

This road serves three of the four entrances into the Yosemite Valley and is used by hundreds of thousands of visitors and park employees each year. The 24 hour repair work means drivers must take an alternate route at night and face up to 30 minute delays during the day.

Garin Wong, Yosemite Visitor: "I guess if we don't fall into the river it is worth the wait."

Park Rangers say the road is in danger of collapsing if it's not repaired.

Freeman: "This is something we've wanted to do for quite a long time and are just at the point where we have to do it."

This section of El Portal started crumbling after a 1997 flood that damaged seven miles of the road. The Park Service repaired most of the problems before a judge sided with environmentalists who wanted the work stopped until a Merced River plan is approved.

This work is now being allowed because it's considered an emergency.

Environmentalists we spoke with are concerned about the amount of vegetation that's been removed for the project. They say they never tried to stop the emergency repairs, only more extensive efforts on other parts of the road.

Park Officials say they're doing everything they can to minimize the impact on the environment and visitors. Their goal is to finish the project by Memorial Day.


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