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Author Topic: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide  (Read 2302 times)

Max Rockatansky

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CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« on: July 16, 2016, 06:26:23 PM »

Spent the morning up at Yosemite, took CA 41 in but took CA 140 out to see the progress on the rock shed construction along the Ferguson Slide.  The stop light at the twin-single lane bridges really left me some room for a couple decent photos...excuse the glare on the photos from the bridges:






Looks like there has been some work on stabilizing the rocks but nothing really on the super shed.  Apparently the rock shed is supposed to be complete some time in 2020.  The interesting to me is that the temporary bridges actually put on on the grade of the Yosemite Valley Railroad for a little bit.  Funny to think this slide area went really to hell back in 2006 and was really close to getting the CA 39 treatment with the environmental red tap until...I think it was 2012 when the state actually approved building the rock shed?  Anyways...just thought it would be neat to check out given that I was in the area.

Speaking of interesting things in the Merced River Gorge and CA 140, there was some nice bridges to see out in what's left of Bagby:



I really have no idea how old this suspension bridge is...but it would make sense for one to be placed there in the late 1920s given that's when the Briceburg store opened due to the Central Yosemite Highway opening.  I do know that it takes you onward Briceburg Road west for about 4.5 miles to Railroad Flat, all of it is old Yosemite Valley Railroad Grade.  The Yosemite Valley Railroad was actually in operation from 1907...I think to the mid-1940s.  Most of the rail grade is still unused to this day due to a lot of the right-of-way being flooded over from water storage.  This is purely speculation but it might be possible now to take a 4x4 or dirt bike west all the way to the ghost town of Bagby due to Lake McClure's water level dropping...it can certainly be walked.

The original 1926 bridges for the Central Yosemite Highway are still in use, this is the one from Briceburg:




Anyways, I thought it was neat to see the "1926" stamped into the concrete on the bridge.  The name of said bridge eludes me even though it was clearly posted when I drove past it.  A word of advice though on Yosemite, don't go into the park on 140 on the weekends unless you like sitting in massive amounts of stand still traffic.  The temporary bridges up at the Ferguson slide had traffic backed up for at least a mile and that can't be a fast process with the automated traffic light.

Just for show, some stuff from Yosemite...had a nice 8-10 mile long run, I didn't carry a fitbit purposely:







If you want my opinion spring is the time to go right when Glacier Point opens since the crowds aren't large and you still have some snow:



« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 08:54:27 PM by Max Rockatansky »
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flowmotion

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2016, 12:38:37 AM »

It has been so long, I was suspecting they were just going to "let it be". (Because Yosemite is too crowded anyway, so why not...) And based on your pic, there still does not seem to be much progress on the slide portion. But after years of studies, here's what they came up with:

Alternative R: Construct a rock shed through the rockfall debris (talus) and restore SR-140 on the existing alignment

http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist10/environmental/projects/fergusonslide/
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sparker

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2016, 03:03:57 AM »

Not surprising to see the 1926 construction date on some of these bridges.  CA 140 east of Merced was one of the very first state highways to be commissioned (it was SLR 18) as an "all-weather" route into Yosemite.  But like all roads built next to rivers to take advantage of the relatively low elevation, the trade-off is perennial flood damage.  I first saw pictures of steel bridges like those shown in the late "California Highways & Public Works" issue published immediately after the massive 1964 storms in the northwest part of the state that took out much of US 101 in the Eel River canyon system; apparently those were originally provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- but the Division of Highways recognized their usefulness and purchased or commissioned several sets of bridge components in the ensuing years just for such emergency occurrences. 
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2016, 07:26:20 AM »

Yeah looks like most of what has happened is the slide being stabilized.  That must have been miserable if you lived in something like El Portal for a couple months until the first temporary bridges went up, at least all things went to hell in the spring months and not winter.  I'm actually kind of surprised given all this time that something like a permanent route north of the slide wasn't adopted with two lane bridges. 

Those single lane decks are kind of neat though, definitely something you'd wouldn't expect to really see out in the field these days.  It was a trip watching a full size truck go over the one in my photo...albeit he was behind me.  Pretty much all those bridges in the area on 140 have some sort of historic marker on them just like in Briceburg.

sparker

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2016, 01:06:42 PM »

IIRC, back in 1965 after the Eel River flooding that took out much of US 101, the single-lane prefab bridges over the floodplains were paralleled by a 2nd bridge for opposite-direction traffic as soon as the clear & present flood danger had subsided.  In some instances, these bridges were utilized until expedited construction of a permanent replacement could be effected.  That years' flooding did much to advance the construction schedule of the US 101 "freeway" (4 lanes with a double-yellow "median"), situated well uphill from the flood plain; it was reasoned that the long-term interruption of commerce (not only regional lumber activities but the basic necessity of getting goods in and out of Eureka, Fortuna, Garberville and other regional communities) was a situation that
needed to be addressed sooner rather than later.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2016, 01:17:50 PM »

Yeah that's a hell of a nice series of upgrades that have been made near Eureka and really everything north of San Francisco.  It's still kind of amusing to me after all these years that a bypass of Eureka still isn't a thing with literally full freeway on both sides.  It's definitely overbuilt but if there was a push to build up US 101 after a flood...why not?

sparker

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2016, 03:04:19 PM »

Yeah -- a Eureka bypass was originally adopted in the very early '60's, but a combination of factors sunk that proposal in the ensuing years -- organized opposition from downtown businesses fearing loss of traffic from a 101 shift around town, NIMBY's with inland residences close to the proposed freeway path (which was about 1-1 1/2 mile southeast of the existing route), and general anti-automobile sentiment (locally, largely emanating from Humboldt State University in Arcata).  Together, this managed to delay development of the bypass until Adriana Gianturco became head of Caltrans in 1975 with the incoming 1st Jerry Brown administration, at which time most non-Interstate freeway projects not yet underway were "back-burnered" or, with legislative help, cancelled outright.  In this case, the originally adopted route was deleted, and the bypass concept devolved into just a vague line on a planning map (where it sits today!). 

Ironically, the naysayers (and they persist to this day) in and around the university community in Arcata get to utilize their nice vintage classic 50's-60's design US 101 freeway in and around their town, but their less fortunate Eureka neighbors have to put up with trucks and other interregional traffic slogging down the one-way couplet through downtown.  Go figure! 
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2016, 06:53:49 PM »

Kind of funny the shift of attitude towards the road up in that part of the state....or hell the state in general.  Speaking of Arcata, it's kind of amusing to see 299 as a freeway for about a good five miles east to Blue Lake.  That one is perplexing to understand the merit at all.

sparker

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2016, 09:22:22 PM »

And in the same vein, the freeway section of US 101 just north of Crescent City has always perplexed me -- it terminates at/immediately beyond the US 199 split at one end and simply empties out into Crescent City at the other.  A full freeway serves little or no purpose here.  I seem to recall a bypass of the town being in the works in the late '60's, which would have continued the freeway southward, but those plans were dashed about the time that the Eureka bypass was deleted from the adopted-route roster.  My best guess is that the section that was built was to give Del Norte County (and that part of the state in general) a "taste of the freeway action", so to speak, along one of the easier-to-construct segments of US 101. 
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2017, 09:54:49 PM »

There was a massive clearing of the weather this week after all the storms earlier in the month.  Things got so nice in fact that R2 chain restrictions in Yosemite Valley actually were lifted on Thursday.  That being the case I figured it was high time to pay Yosemite a winter visit, check up on the Ferguson Slide, and go more in depth on the back story of CA 140 and the road to El Portal.

Speaking of the weather, it was a rare day where the Sierra could be seen all day from San Joaquin Valley.  Generally there is much haze in the summer or fog in the winter that really prevents the Sierras from being seen at any sizeable distance.  I took 99 and shortcut up to 140 east of Merced.   49 is usually a mess in the morning with school buses and they had R2 restrictions until yesterday:



Out of the three state highways into Yosemite I've always found 140 to probably be the most quiet.  Hardly a person in sight in Mariposa this morning:





Funny thing is that I've never actually been asked if I've been carrying chains in Yosemite, you'd think that would be kind of important given the time of year.  Anyways the VMS sign and control city sign were directly north of where 49 splits away from 140:



41 and the Wawona Road still had R2 restrictions this morning so I was a little concerned that I would see a glut of YARTs buses, this was the only one.  Thankfully I lost the bus in Midpines and didn't see another all the way to Yosemite Valley.  There was a ton of truckers heading west on 140 though, I suppose it makes sense considering it really was the only viable route for them into the park currently:



140 ascends to a pass just slightly below 3,000 feet above sea level.  From there the drop to Briceburg into the Merced River Canyon is about 1,800 feet.  In the far background you can see some of the Burma Grade up in the higher part of the Merced River Canyon, more on that later:



This was honestly probably the most I've ever seen 140 of rockfall.  I would probably say that had something to do with the fact that it was very apparent snow crews and plows had been through the bottom of the Merced River Canyon in the previous week:



Got lucky and hit the one-way bridges on the Ferguson Slide while the light was green going in to Yosemite and coming back out.  I ended up getting much more substantial pictures of the Slide and accompanying work project this time:


Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2017, 10:14:41 PM »

So what work has been done since July last year on the Ferguson Slide you ask?  Apparently not a damn thing! 



I guess that crews stopped working until this whole rock shed thing gets worked out.  I dare to say that this is starting to feel like CA 39 almost with this supposedly "temporary" detour lasting all the way from 2006.  Maybe at this point it is time to consider maybe putting some permanent one-way bridge decks in around the slide and just calling it a day?  I mean seriously, the only time I've ever seen the road backed up here at the slide is in the peak weekend days mid-day in the summer.  Really you're still in pretty good shape given the length of the light is very generous.

But I actually got the "official" Ferguson Project signage this time.  At least the signage that got put up is pretty nice:




The weather started to change at El Portal, the canyon walls get very steep and drove down the temperature.  Sadly no CA 140 "End" at the Yosemite National Park Entrance:





Wasn't there a MUTCD compliant US 395 both east and westbound at the Big Oak Flat Junction last year?...where did they go?



Despite the lack of chain requirements in Yosemite Valley things weren't exactly smooth sailing:



Especially on the Wawona Road up to the Wawona Tunnel and Tunnel View.  Apparently chain controls were up five miles head south on Wawona:



Given that I had the Tunnel View all to myself I decided to try my hand at replicating Ansel Adam's monochrome in the same place.  It really helps that in his photo that the Wawona Road was closed and had a big snow drift into the tunnel itself:



Regardless lots of snow, lots of water especially compared to last January.  Last year I got in through Wawona with no snow up to 5,200 feet.

Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2017, 10:32:10 PM »

Roads in the Valley definitely were not in the best of shape, I'm surprised that they weren't pushing for R1:




The water level sure receded almost back to normal from that video I posted on the Calaveras Tree thread:




Again where the hell is the US 395?  Maybe I'm just not remembering where it was and it is up Big Oak Flat Road or something?



The El Portal Road from the Valley to the eastern terminus is a good 8% grade and has about a 2,000 foot elevation variance.  Given that the grade is actually in Yosemite National Park they have the speed limit pegged at 35 MPH to probably keep people from getting into trouble with the rockfall:



The snow almost completely disappeared at 3,000 feet above sea level.  I want to say there was traces down to 2,500 feet...it has been awhile since I've seen it at such a low elevation:



The first CA 140 reassurance marker for westbound.  Seems 140 merits a directional banner...its the least that Caltrans can do.  But it has me interested to see if all of District 10 is like that and I just haven't noticed?



Interesting orange construction 140 sign westbound at the Ferguson Slide:



There is a huge amount of ruins of the grade of the Yosemite Valley Railroad that can be seen near Incline.



Supposed this little collection of buildings was once known as Clearinghouse according to the 1935 Mariposa County Map:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~247310~5515366:Mariposa-County?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:mariposa%2Bcounty;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=43&trs=48

Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2017, 10:51:47 PM »

Some nice vintage pre-signed state route bridges starting with the Sweetwater Creek Bridge:




And the Slate Creek Bridge




More railroad ruins between the Slide and Briceburg:



This time around I did a little bit more homework on the Yosemite Valley Railroad.  Basically the line was standard gauge and in operation from 1907 from 1945.  Lake McClure and the Exchequer Dam was a big problem for the Railroad since the initial alignment was going to be flooded over.  Work on a realignment at the Lake McClure reservoir site started in 1924 and was finished in 1926 just as the original Exchequer Dam.  There was a floods in the Merced River Canyon that damaged the tracks in 1937 and 1945.  The Yosemite Valley Railroad was abandoned in 1945 and the tracks were removed in 1946.  Basically it seems that the really killer for the rails was the state highway project from Merced to Yosemite...but I'll touch on that in a bit.  Even still it is a damn shame, I would imagine that had the rail survived somehow that it would be kind of like the Grand Canyon Railroad today. 

Regardless this is a decent site with a timeline of the Yosemite Valley Railroad:

http://www.yosemitevalleyrailroad.com/General.Subjects/Table.TimeLine.html

Along with a map of the alignment (the post 1935 alignment is also on the Mariposa County Map from eariler):

http://www.yosemitevalleyrailroad.com/Map.Base.DIR/Blind.Maps.html

Speaking of Briceburg I went back for a closer look at the one-lane span over the Merced River to the Yosemite Valley Railroad Grade:



Really I don't know too much additional

From there I scoped out the Burma Grade since there may be a discretionary high clearance purchase this year.  Really I don't know the back story with the Burma Grade other than it ascends the Merced River Canyon walls from Briceburg and is about 15-16 miles.  There is a huge number of switch backs right above Briceburg that aren't readily apparent from the river bed:




Decent view of the Yosemite Valley Railroad Grade westbound down the Merced River Canyon:



Followed by a nice big switch back:

« Last Edit: January 28, 2017, 12:38:10 AM by Max Rockatansky »
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CA 140 and the Ferguson Landslide
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2017, 11:23:19 PM »

I'll have to remember this was here maybe in a couple months...looks like this wouldn't be easy to move and backing up would sure suck:



One more big switchback before the view of 140, the Merced River, and the Briceburg Bridge all in one frame:




Really the Briceburg Bridge has me confused on how old it is.  I know Briceburg was present at least back to 1918 (see map below) and I know there was a store there by 1926.  Stands to reason that it was there to take advantage of rail traffic and then automobile traffic on the new road from Merced to Yosemite:



And for the hell of it the Merced River with the 1926 that I took photos of in the first post of this thread:



So with that all in mind it would seem that 140 has a hell of backstory with LRN 18 having very early origins all the way back to 1895:

http://www.cahighways.org/017-024.html#LR018

According to Daniel's website the 1895 legislative action was to survey a route for wagons from Mariposa to Yosemite.  It would seem that a bond was funded in 1909 for a road from Merced to Mariposa and from Mariposa to El Portal.  Of course this all become LRN 18 and later Signed State Route 140 by 1934.  So that raises the question, when was road from Mariposa and El Portal open?

It would seem the obvious answer to that question would be 1926 given the date stamps on all the bridges in this thread....but that might not have been the case.  On the 1918 map the road from Mariposa to El Portal is only shown as proposed alignment:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239613~5511905:Road-Map-of-the-State-of-California?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=83&trs=86

The 1924 state highway map shows the road being graded or under contract. 

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239606~5511902:Map-Showing-State-Highway-System--C?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=80&trs=86

By 1932 the Mariposa to El Portal road is paved:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~239597~5511898:Map-Showing-State-Highway-System--C?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:caltrans;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=75&trs=86

So in sum, I'm glad that I could get out to the Sierras even if it was for a little bit due to a weather window.  CA 1 is still all mucked up and it looks like my window for next Tuesday probably ain't going to happen.  So I might be moving on to the Santa Cruz Range as planned some time in February...who knows since even some of those roads are mauled up from mudslides also.

 


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