Major road to Yosemite nearly ready to reopen after weeks of construction

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After weeks of detours, the end is in sight for families and tourists relying on Highway 41 north of Fishcamp. (KFSN)

After weeks of detours, the end is in sight for families and tourists relying on Highway 41 north of Fishcamp.

Construction workers are nearly finished rebuilding the crucial road leading into Yosemite. You could call it Yosemite's version of the "big dig."

Intense winter storms washed out and collapsed Highway 41 just south of the national park entrance. The culvert installed under the roadway in the 1920s couldn't handle all the storm run-off and debris sweeping down the mountain side.

To replace it, the contractor had to dig down 50 feet and haul out tons of dirt and rock. A new culvert that's twice the size as the old one is now under the roadway, and it's packed in with the new dry material.

"We had to use additional trucks and additional trucking companies to help perform that work," Cory Burkarth with Caltrans said. "And that can only be done during the day."

The extra work plus a lot of new snow slowed down the repair job. Caltrans had hoped to have at least one lane of Highway 41 open for this weekend but that's been pushed back.

"We fully expect to be able to reopen the roadway at least to one-way traffic control on March 15," Burkarth said.

During construction, tourists and park employees faced long detours. Christian Mueller lives in Oakhurst and works at the Redwoods Cabins in Yosemite.

He and his fellow employees used their heads and their feet to get to work.

"We're walking over here together," he said. "Our group of eight to 12, and then we have cars parked on the other side - got into cars and go to work."

That made for a 12-hour work day because the park workers were only allowed to cross over at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. We asked if they'll be ready to celebrate when the stretch of 41 finally reopens.

"I don't know, but we're just happy it's open," Mueller said.

Caltrans says if the weather in the Sierra stays clear this weekend, there is a chance they could re-open one lane of Highway 41 north of Fishcamp on Monday.
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