MADERA COUNTY (KFSN) --The drive along Highway 41 through Madera County can be frustrating during the morning and evening commute-- and on weekends. New passing lanes will ease the congestion but the project at Highway 41 near Road 208 will also cause more traffic tie-ups in the coming months.
Crews have begun moving earth for the Highway Widening Project. It's been needed for many years. Highway 41 north of Highway 145 in Madera County often grinds to a halt in both directions. "The traffic actually gets backed up a lot, especially on the 41 because we're having to slow down because we're getting into some of the mountainous roads. So it will be great to get some two lane action," said Billy Meneley, Fresno.
But crews are moving very deliberately for environmental reasons. The area can serve as a breeding ground for the endangered California Tiger Salamander. Tami Conrado of Caltrans said any salamanders found must be moved to another area. "It's causing a delay unfortunately. Probably about three weeks at least."
The passing lanes along this scenic stretch of Highway 41 will give drivers about two miles to motor past slower cars. "With the communities Oakhurst, Coarsegold, obviously the casino, Yosemite Lakes Park-- there's a lot of commuters that travel that roadway," said Conrado.
The project should be done by the fall. It's intended to improve driver safety along this busy corridor. "It can be, especially at hours around five and in the morning and stuff like that. Especially on weekends too, with all the traffic heading up to the mountains," said Meneley.
But once construction begins in a few weeks, crews will need to set off explosions to remove some rocky and hilly portions to make way for a wider highway. When that happens traffic will come to a halt at times. "Delays for drivers would be anywhere from 20-30 minutes," said Conrado.
The delays will momentarily add to what can already be a frustrating drive but by the end of summer, it will be a much smoother stretch.