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Author Topic: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway  (Read 3589 times)

Max Rockatansky

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Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« on: December 31, 2016, 01:17:00 AM »

I've often heard rumors that there was once a proposal or study to extend CA 203 through the Sierras along the San Joaquin River but I never could find proof that it was once a real idea.  Ironically found this little article on the Park Service Website for Devils Postpile National Monument while looking for some other information in regards to the "Gapped Highway Thread."  Anyways, I thought it was an interesting read really even things never got beyond the ideas phase of discussion:


https://www.nps.gov/depo/learn/historyculture/trans-sierra-highway.htm

« Last Edit: January 01, 2017, 09:52:15 PM by Max Rockatansky »
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Quillz

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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2016, 02:25:51 PM »

CA-203 wasn't numbered until '64 and I've never seen any maps from that year or later that ever showed even a proposed routing across the Sierra. So I don't think it ever got past the brainstorming phase.

Had it been possible, though, I could see it as a very popular route since it would connect directly to the Mammoth ski area and make traveling much easier for motorists coming from around the Fresno area.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2016, 03:09:08 PM »

CA-203 wasn't numbered until '64 and I've never seen any maps from that year or later that ever showed even a proposed routing across the Sierra. So I don't think it ever got past the brainstorming phase.

Had it been possible, though, I could see it as a very popular route since it would connect directly to the Mammoth ski area and make traveling much easier for motorists coming from around the Fresno area.

Yeah looks like that all these ideas starting to get some traction all in the 1960s and 70s when conservation was getting a foothold.  Really though this might have stood a chance had someone had the idea back a couple decades prior.  Just like Olacha Pass with 190 there wasn't the same level of terrain obstacles that 180 and 168 would have to face to be Trans-Sierra routes.  Granted this is around the same time 276 was being proposed before Sequoia National Park gobbled up Mineral King via annexation.

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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2016, 04:18:12 PM »

Looking at Google Maps and assuming CA-203 would follow as close to the San Joaquin River as possible, I could see a southern extension going as far south as Prather, where it would terminate at CA-168. Say this were to happen, that would make CA-203 a predominately south-north route, which would make its number make a bit more sense. But at the same time, such a route could almost serve as a realigned CA-168, which would then be concurrent with US-395 from roughly Mammoth Lakes to Big Pine. (The segment between Lake Sabrina and Bishop could be canceled entirely).

In practice, I might revise what I said. I don't know how useful that would be, since a motorist would still have to go through Fresno, then get on the 168 for a time. Especially for SoCal motorists, the usual way of reaching Mammoth, 5 -> 14 -> 395, would probably still be faster.

Made a very rough estimate of the general path of the route and its mileage:

« Last Edit: December 31, 2016, 04:23:36 PM by Quillz »
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2016, 04:26:11 PM »

Even worse if the alignment took it to 168 then it would be the older version that ran on Shaw through downtown Clovis which would have been a slow go until the freeway opened in the 2000s.  Really it seemed like from the article that only people pushing for a road were in San Joaquin Valley which obvious stood to benefit the most.  From Fresno you got a lot of back tracking to do to get to Mammoth.  In the summer it is relatively easy with 120 open but the winter time means the most direct route is 178 and 58 then up U.S. 395.  Granted that's just an assumption on my part that the Minerat Summit Highway was meant to be all season in concept.

I'll have to look at my notes, I want to say 168 was moved from the Tollhouse Grade north to Prather in 66-67 or something? 

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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2016, 04:32:40 PM »

I would imagine most trans-Sierra routes were intended to be all-season in principle (why else would they be state maintained?), but that's obviously not the case. Given the Postpile access is already closed in winter, any such connection from there down to roughly Fresno would probably be closed in the winter, too.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2016, 04:56:02 PM »

I would imagine most trans-Sierra routes were intended to be all-season in principle (why else would they be state maintained?), but that's obviously not the case. Given the Postpile access is already closed in winter, any such connection from there down to roughly Fresno would probably be closed in the winter, too.

Generally most of the passes had some sort of back story to them though.  Sonora Pass was a popular wagon route from Sonora to the silver mines in the eastern Sierras.  Ebbetts was scouted for a possible transcontinental rail alignment and was a known pass for the Native Americans.  Tioga Pass had a route running up Lee Vining Canyon to the mines and Groveland/Big Oak Flat had the road to Yosemite which was eventually joined.  Back in the early highway system it was probably assumed "if you build it, they will come" which possibly could have led to all year passes for 4, 108, and 120.  The history of Donner Pass is obvious with the wagons and trains, Walker and Tehacpi were well known wagon routes too (ironically which led to the discovery of Death Valley) which really just leaves Echo Summit and Sherman Pass.  I pretty sure Sherman was really the not truly brand new route configuration built by anyone for any transportation use in the 20th century. 

But in regards to Minaret Summit and Mammoth, why build a road at all if it couldn't be year round?  Really Mammoth basically exists nowadays just to cater to people visiting the ski resort area regardless of the season.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2017, 09:53:52 PM by Max Rockatansky »
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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2017, 01:28:39 PM »

http://thesheetnews.com/2014/08/02/stopping-the-road-the-campaign-against-the-trans-sierra-highway/

I remember reading this article in "The Sheet" a couple years back. Interesting read. I hope to read the book someday.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2017, 03:03:54 PM »

http://thesheetnews.com/2014/08/02/stopping-the-road-the-campaign-against-the-trans-sierra-highway/

I remember reading this article in "The Sheet" a couple years back. Interesting read. I hope to read the book someday.

See some of the arguments used "for" and "against" are both equally silly.  The people who didn't want the road seem to be screaming "rape of the natural world" as their main argument.  On the flip side, really an evacuation route for a nuclear attack?....that's absurd even the Cold Climate.

I guess that my thoughts on this might be somewhat unique since I don't really lean one direction or the other.  I think roads like Tioga Pass, Going-to-the-Sun, Trail Ridge, the Generals Highway, Mount Carmel Highway, and quite frankly many more go a long way to accentuate places in nature by giving people access to something special they might not otherwise have.  Granted this is just a stub off a much longer article but it sounds like a lot of people didn't want 203 being extended simply because of the tried and true "not in my backyard" argument.

I look at something like Mineral King Road and Mineral King Valley itself as an example of how too much conservation can be a negative.  Basically you got a bunch of previously held private land and cabins that are now on the whim of a lease system.  Not that it would happen or is likely, but what happens if the Park Service ever decides to kick everyone out?  Granted agreements have been made....but agreements can be changed and was it all really necessary.  It is interesting to look at the back story about CA 276 and how it would have to go through a little stub of Sequoia National Park to reach Mineral King.  It has the taste of a Park Service branch feeling threatened by commercial interests and pulling some muscle to get an annexation they wanted.

On the flip side, the real question from the get-go should have been was the Minaret Summit Highway necessary?  Asides from the "nukes" argument that anyone else could submit anything viable other than the highway would have been really cool...but not necessary.  Really wasn't part of the whole deal with the Reagan administration reorganizing the Division of Highways to begin with?...because they had a lot of plans and built a lot of miles of road that probably wasn't necessary?  It might not seem like it nowadays with almost 40 million people here in California but most of these roads and especially the expressways were built in an era where they would have seemed almost like something out of FritzOwl thread.  Really there is very few places in this country where you will see state highways or even US Routes built to the configuration and standards they are here in California.

So the question is this, what is necessary and what isn't?   Really with all the routes over the Sierras today it would be incredibly hard to argue that another one should be built or would offer some sort alternative to get people moving faster than what is already in place.  So all that leaves left is a simple aspect of accentuation, but is there another Tioga Pass or Sherman Pass in the protected lands worth investing in?...possibly but probably not likely. 
« Last Edit: January 01, 2017, 09:54:31 PM by Max Rockatansky »
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NE2

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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2017, 09:46:58 PM »

Minaret. Like those unclean Mooslim teristas.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tale of the Minerat Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2017, 10:04:07 PM »

Minaret. Like those unclean Mooslim teristas.

Yeah, probably should have caught that one considering I posted this photo in one of my other threads:



Incidentally found this when I was browsing around today:



I can't find any exact placement on the line unfortunately, or at least not yet.  It would seem that Central Camp Road is involved:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Central+Camp+Rd,+Bass+Lake,+CA+93604/@37.3660861,-119.519272,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x80942a2b40b7bfb1:0x1ec6c28539e03e04!8m2!3d37.3445957!4d-119.5065733?hl=en

Maybe there is something on the subject at the Yosemite Mountain line up on 41 that's worth checking out.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2017, 10:40:38 PM by Max Rockatansky »
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NE2

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Re: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2017, 11:42:26 PM »

I can't find any exact placement on the line unfortunately, or at least not yet.  It would seem that Central Camp Road is involved:
Here's the route of the Minarets and Western (south from Wishon on Bass Lake):
http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~247281~5515351:Fresno-County-

The logging railroad presumably went from Central Camp to Wishon along Central Camp Road. Apparently nothing was built beyond Central Camp.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2017, 11:52:13 PM by NE2 »
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2017, 12:31:31 AM »

I can't find any exact placement on the line unfortunately, or at least not yet.  It would seem that Central Camp Road is involved:
Here's the route of the Minarets and Western (south from Wishon on Bass Lake):
http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~247281~5515351:Fresno-County-

The logging railroad presumably went from Central Camp to Wishon along Central Camp Road. Apparently nothing was built beyond Central Camp.

Supposedly the line went to a company town called "Minarets" which was at the north end of the line until 1933.  Considering that this map of Madera County is also from 1935 it makes sense why the tracks are shown ending at Bass Lake:

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~247306~5515364:Madera-County-?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:madera%2Bcounty;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=43&trs=47

The above map shows a road that roughly follows the alignment of Central Camp Road.  It would seem that Minarets was slightly to the northeast at the approximate location of Whiskers Campground:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Whiskers+Campground/@37.332004,-119.49217,15.02z/data=!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x80942a2b40b7bfb1:0x1ec6c28539e03e04!2sCentral+Camp+Rd,+Bass+Lake,+CA+93604!3b1!8m2!3d37.341801!4d-119.5049692!3m4!1s0x0:0xc674f25e3f87550e!8m2!3d37.3338339!4d-119.4923607!6m1!1e1?hl=en

Considering this appears to be a rail bridge just south of Whiskers Campground I'd say that clinches the deal on the location of the railroad:

https://www.google.com/maps/@37.332004,-119.49217,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1s10370171!2e1!3e10!6s%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fproxy%2FYrde7Y2jMvFa8RmUk25Dkv8ABHbpnY9YVfDYuZnh6oFeQrXbZxY2NYgHTBZosmYIqGQXVzryH5kJpLilMxmyy3vmDcqzPg%3Dw203-h151!7i2288!8i1712?hl=en

Which still puts the alignment of the Minarets and Western Railroad too far west of the San Joaquin River really to have any connection at all to a possible highway extension of 203 discussed in the 60s/70s.  The name probably comes from the fact that the Minarets are actually located in far northeast Madera County.  Too bad, that might have made for an interesting story in regards to right-of-way development history.  At least the location of a ghost town/former settlement got pinned down with something interesting to see one day with the former rail bridge.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2017, 12:40:00 AM by Max Rockatansky »
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kkt

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Re: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2017, 01:24:18 PM »

The road proposals were silly even if you didn't care about the natural beauty of the Minarets.  As I look at the map, it looks only about 12 miles south of the Tioga Pass road.  It would be extremely expensive both to build and to maintain; even closed in winter, there would be rockfalls to clear away every year.  Awfully expensive just to save maybe 50 miles off a trip.

It probably says something about state financing in the 1950s-60s that they even thought about it.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2017, 02:23:05 PM »

The road proposals were silly even if you didn't care about the natural beauty of the Minarets.  As I look at the map, it looks only about 12 miles south of the Tioga Pass road.  It would be extremely expensive both to build and to maintain; even closed in winter, there would be rockfalls to clear away every year.  Awfully expensive just to save maybe 50 miles off a trip.

It probably says something about state financing in the 1950s-60s that they even thought about it.

Which is probably what led to everything that followed with Caltrans replacing he Divison of Highways.  It probably wouldn't have been too dissimilar to 180 in Kings Canyon.  That road is absolutely full of rock fall every spring once it reopens. 

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Re: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2017, 11:48:52 AM »

Really wasn't part of the whole deal with the Reagan administration reorganizing the Division of Highways to begin with?...because they had a lot of plans and built a lot of miles of road that probably wasn't necessary?  It might not seem like it nowadays with almost 40 million people here in California but most of these roads and especially the expressways were built in an era where they would have seemed almost like something out of FritzOwl thread.  Really there is very few places in this country where you will see state highways or even US Routes built to the configuration and standards they are here in California.

The sad thing about improving infrastructure is that sooner or later it makes myopia look like a plausible electoral choice.  California has about 13,000 miles of state highway, of which about 5,000 is freeway of one type or another, and the trend of California doubling in population every 20 years had been established in 1870 and was in full swing during Reagan's governorship.

California had about 20 million people when Reagan left the governorship in 1975, so there were then about 4,000 people per mile of freeway.  Now there are 8,000.  In comparison, Kansas has had much slower population growth and a more measured approach toward development of its state highway system (capital investment increased modestly above an early-1980's baseline for three decades).  The state highway system has 10,000 miles, of which about 1100 is full freeway (874.34 miles of which is Interstate), which works out to about 2,700 people per mile of freeway.  In spite of this gradual approach and the clear benefit of the three decades' worth of investment (visible not just on the freeways--about 30% of the current mileage opened in the last 30 years--but also on highly improved two-lane state highways), however, we now have a conservative Republican governor who steals from KDOT on the premise that "the state highways are in pretty good shape."

So the question is this, what is necessary and what isn't?   Really with all the routes over the Sierras today it would be incredibly hard to argue that another one should be built or would offer some sort alternative to get people moving faster than what is already in place.  So all that leaves left is a simple aspect of accentuation, but is there another Tioga Pass or Sherman Pass in the protected lands worth investing in?...possibly but probably not likely.

I have visited Devil's Postpile National Monument (though not during the season when shuttle buses must be used), so I have had an opportunity to appreciate the potential convenience of a denser ladder of Sierra crossings.  I was bound for Manzanar and Death Valley as part of the same trip, so I was not planning to get directly from Mammoth Lakes to Fresno or even Merced, but I was still very aware of the Sierras as an impenetrable wall at that point.  However, I don't think I would sacrifice this part of the Sierras for an easier crossing, especially when the major population centers outside the San Joaquin Valley are better served by the routes that already exist, are highly improved, and are maintained fit for travel throughout the winter.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #16 on: January 06, 2017, 12:12:28 PM »

Really that's the thing that California did a pretty decent job post-Division of Highways was keeping up with building of urban freeways.  Granted I say with a little bit of sarcasm because there are definitely a ton of improvements that could be done to help with the awful traffic follow in the big three Metro Area; Los Angeles, San Diego, and the Bay Area....but it could have ended so much worse than it did.  I shiver to think how much worse things could have been without the huge build up of primary road infrastructure in the 50s/60s with close to 40 million people nowadays.  This would be my third stop in California for something work related; the previous two times involved Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, or San Diego.  Somehow I managed to stay living in Phoenix and commuting to work sites despite the push for me to transfer.  I couldn't imagine living in any of those places now with all the traffic congestion and waves of people....I guess that is part of getting old for me that I have a harder time tolerating that kind of thing.

I guess that's the thing about the route not being necessary, you hit on the key point; people already use the roads that are in place just fine.  At the end of the day another road through the Sierras really probably serves the interest of people like me or Quillz.  I'll go way out of my way to avoid a freeway or population center, but I enjoy mountain driving and the investment of time that comes with it.  Really the huge advantage for me is that I live in the Central Valley and all the mountain routes are viable single day options whereas they would not be for folks in other areas.  I would think for 90% of people I-80, US 50, and US 395 would serve their Sierra traveling needs just fine.  Most folks aren't going to be even adventurous enough to even hit Sonora or Ebbetts Pass....even Tioga might too much for them.

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Re: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2017, 12:44:04 PM »

It would be extremely expensive both to build and to maintain; even closed in winter, there would be rockfalls to clear away every year. 

Thank you. Not to say that we don't need new roads in many parts of this country, particularly the west, but it's good to see some recognition that our ambition in the 1960s didn't take into account the long-term expense of maintenance and now we are paying a dear price for that.
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Re: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #18 on: January 06, 2017, 01:28:26 PM »

Really that's the thing that California did a pretty decent job post-Division of Highways was keeping up with building of urban freeways.  Granted I say with a little bit of sarcasm because there are definitely a ton of improvements that could be done to help with the awful traffic follow in the big three Metro Area; Los Angeles, San Diego, and the Bay Area....but it could have ended so much worse than it did.  I shiver to think how much worse things could have been without the huge build up of primary road infrastructure in the 50s/60s with close to 40 million people nowadays. 

The best example of how different things can be is what I saw out in Manila last week, where the metro area has more people than the entire state of Kentucky, yet only this year will the region get its first and second crosstown through freeways ever.  The light rail system was first built a couple of decades before these highway projects in town started, and unsurprisingly the mixture of truck traffic, region-to-region driving, and slow private mass transit (jeepneys) wasn't entirely abated by it.

Obviously the freeway revolts and budget cuts halted a lot of what was planned for California but other than any routing from the Peninsula or downtown SF to the Golden Gate Bridge, there aren't too many Breezewood-like situations in the state at all.  (Maybe US 101 in Eureka.)
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Re: Tale of the Minaret Summit Trans-Sierra Highway
« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2017, 01:12:15 AM »

Even in Eureka, I felt the traffic flowed well enough. And while Eureka isn't exactly one of the first cities you think of when it comes to California, it does have enough charm that I can understand why it changes from freeway to one-way couplet rather quickly.
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