MARIPOSA COUNTY (KFSN) --As the wet weather continues, Caltrans is keeping a close eye on the Ferguson rock slide project.
That's where crews are clearing the way to build a tunnel-like structure that will allow two-way traffic on Highway 140 between Mariposa and Yosemite. But the area has already had two new slides since November.
This rainy day is also a quiet one at the spot where a massive rock slide shut down Highway 140 back in 2006. Crews finished hauling away about 63,000 tons of rock and debris months ahead of schedule in May and were planning to start building this 750 foot long rock shed in March. "We did plan for a wet winter, so we knew in our construction timeline we built in some time where we couldn't work at all," said Angela Deprato, Caltrans Public Information Officer.
Caltrans was expecting some activity at the site, but not the two significant slides that happened in November and December. You can see where the rocks pulled down the cable netting that was brought in by helicopters to help stabilize the area last spring. It's hard to predict the impact El Nino conditions could have in the months ahead. "Right now we're doing some assessment to figure out what our next steps are," said Deprato.
This project was expected to be finished by 2019, but Caltrans said the assessment period will likely push back the completion date. In the meantime, drivers will keep using the one-way bridges with up to 15 minute wait times. "Obviously, this has been happening for a long time so we're used to delays," said Kevin Cann, Mariposa County Supervisor.
Cann said he's still optimistic the $133-million rock shed will be its own tourist attraction and will help make the wait worthwhile. "We knew the drought wouldn't last forever, amen, and so this is part of the normal process. Unfortunately, Caltrans didn't expect it to happen right now, but I've learned in 20 years at Yosemite that nature happens."