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Government & Politics

Almost 10 Years Later, Work On Highway 140 Rockslide Fix Is Underway

A conceptual drawing of the rockshed proposed for Highway 140

A popular route into Yosemite Valley is about to get a makeover. FM89's Joe Moore reports on the effort t fix damage that happened nearly 10 years ago.

In May 2006, a rockslide in the Merced River Canyon severely damaged Highway 140 between Briceburg and El Portal. Caltrans eventually reopened the road later that year with a temporary detour around the unstable mountain of rock, but that temporary detour is now almost a decade old. 

Credit Caltrans
A map of the Ferguson Project

  Now the state has identified what it hopes is a permanent solution, a 750 foot rockshed, essentially a covered roadway built hard against the slope of the canyon. 

Caltrans spokesperson Angela DaPrato says it's similar to a smaller structure on Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean that will let rocks slide over the roadway...

DePrato: "…rather than on the state route. So if there's any rockslides in the future they'll slide into the Merced River."

Work crews began removing 63,000 tons of debris earlier this year to prepare for the project. But while DePrato says the first phase of the $133 million repair is ahead of schedule, the construction team is now considering a re-design to help save money. 

DePrato: "When we were uncovering the roadway, we were able to assess it a little better, to see exactly what we need to do."

Known as the Ferguson Project, the effort is the first time Caltrans has used a new collaborative approach to cutting costs and the length of projects. The concept, known as "construction manager/general contractor" allows the contractor to collaborate with project designers early on in the project to deal with issues as they arise. 

Even with the possible re-design, DePrato says Caltrans hopes to finish the project by the year 2020.