Click on images courtesy of Caltrans to enlarge.
The closure is located north of the town of Fish Camp and south of the turnoff to Mt. Raymond Road. The Tenaya Lodge is still accessible to the public.
“The conditions in the area have deteriorated to the point that the roadway itself is not safe for vehicle traffic of any kind,” says Caltrans spokesman Cory Burkarth. “While we understand the inconvenience this causes to local residents, tourism traffic and park staff, when it comes down to a matter of safety this is actually a very easy decision for us to make.
“The southbound lane has failed and that failure has stretched to the center line and it is possible or even likely that the failure could stretch to the northbound lane, which could be collapsed by this time tomorrow.”
Burkarth says things went from bad to worse very quickly today, which is why Caltrans has been keeping a close eye on the problem since it became apparent on Thursday, Feb. 9.
“We’ve kept our eyes constantly on this section of roadway since we first became aware of the problem,” he says. “When it initially washed out on February 9, we knew it was possible that this could eventually happen. That is why we continued to inspect the road multiple times a day since then.”
With so many Yosemite National Park staff traveling this section of road on a daily basis, the closure means they now have well over an hour or longer each way every day until repairs are completed and the road is reopened.
With the closure coming before the turnoff to the Snow Play area, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office is concerned that the public may decide to recreate on private property in the area.
“This is concerning to us all,” says Sheriff Doug Binnewies. “Both our office and the CHP are aware of the inability to access Mt. Raymond Road and the Snow Play area from the south. I have requested that we staff appropriate to be able to respond and/or prevent as much snow play trespassing in the Fish Camp town area on private property as we can. Please all remain patient and we’ll do the best we can to get through this challenge.”
Burkarth says Caltrans has heavy equipment fully blocking both lanes of traffic on both sides of the roadway as a safety precaution to prevent a vehicle running through the flagging operation. Flagging personnel are turning people around at both ends of the closure, and Caltrans personnel will be back out tomorrow to assess the situation to see exactly what they’re dealing with.
The closure will continue through next week at the minimum. AGEE Construction is the company doing the emergency construction repair work.
“Motorists need to know that we are well aware of the inconvenience we are causing and the significance of this type of closure and we would not be closing it if it wasn’t absolutely necessary,” says Burkarth. “There are likely parts of the damaged area that are ten feet deep at this point. This is a matter of life and death. That is why we continue to inspect the roads during the daytime and evening hours.”
One resident of Yosemite missed his chance by thirty seconds, says Burkarth, thinking he could come down into town and do what he needed to do. They had just closed the roadway as he tried to return home. Fortunately, he understood and appreciated the fact that Caltrans was able to let as many cars through as they could, until it no longer became safe to do so.
Crews are hoping to have a better picture of the situation over the next couple of days. Motorists should expect that section to be closed until further notice.