The El Portal Road begins at the western boundary of Yosemite National Park. This road climbs 7.5 miles through the Merced River canyon, gaining almost 2,000 vertical feet before it intersects the Yosemite Valley Loop Road at Pohono Bridge. Along the way, this road parallels the Merced Wild and Scenic River and passes Arch Rock Entrance Station.
During the following nine years, the roadway and embankment continued to be undermined by the river. As a result, the National Park Service completed five emergency repairs to Segment D, including three retaining wall repairs to prevent roadway collapse. However, these emergency repairs did not address the fundamental instability of the roadway and did not eliminate the potential for a complete roadway failure. Such a failure could have endangered motorists, caused a long-term road closure, and potentially severed Yosemite Valley’s primary electrical and sewage lines, which would have had serious environmental consequences for the Merced Wild and Scenic River. A roadway collapse would have prohibited access to Yosemite Valley from three park entrances.
Reconstructing Critically Eroded Sections of the El Portal Road EA focuses on the area that starts at the Big Oak Flat Road intersection and extended east 1,350 feet; it focused specifically on those areas in need of emergency repair. The El Portal Road Reconstruction project was originally intended to address various motorist safety and configuration issues in such a way that would align the road structurally and aesthetically with the three road segments previously completed. Because the original project that entailed completely reconstructing the entire road segment was on hold pending the approval of a valid Merced River Plan, the National Park Service addressed the immediate situation with a scaled-down reconstruction project that would stabilize the roadway, protect park resources, and ensure continued visitor access to Yosemite Valley. Other issues not directly related to the emergency repairs, such as intersection configuration, bicycle lanes, and parking were not addressed in this project.
The public scoping period took place from November 11 to December 29, 2006. Following the scoping period, the National Park Service analyzed the comments that were received from the public and identified a range of issues and concerns. The issues and concerns were then used to inform the development of alternative approaches to reconstruct this portion of El Portal Road.
Last updated: February 10, 2020