Yosemite Valley Road Network Pilot

What is the 2021 Yosemite Valley Circulation Pilot and how long will it last?

This pilot will test how well potential changes to roads and intersections relieve traffic congestion in Yosemite Valley.

This pilot will be in place at least until August and includes:

  • Converting the eastbound lane from Yosemite Falls parking (west of Yosemite Valley Lodge) to Yosemite Village to westbound, so there are two westbound lanes of one-way traffic to exit Yosemite Valley
  • Changing the four-way intersection near Curry Village to a three-way intersection without stop signs
  • Switching the direction of traffic flow on Sentinel Drive, so that vehicles drive on the opposite side of the road
  • Removing stop signs and reconfiguring the two Sentinel Drive intersections at Northside and Southside Drives
 
Map showing new circulation in eastern Yosemite Valley
 

Why does the park think this will work?

For the past several years, we have been working with the Federal Highway Administration to collect traffic data and use a computer model to figure out the best way to reduce traffic congestion in Yosemite Valley. The computer model shows:

  • Two-lane, one-way traffic on Northside Drive from Yosemite Village to Yosemite Valley Lodge almost doubles the number of vehicles that can exit the Valley by adding a second exit lane
  • Changing the four-way intersection near Curry Village to a T-junction without stop signs improves traffic flow and reduces the number of bikes and pedestrians that cross in front of and delay vehicles
  • Switching the direction of traffic flow on Sentinel Drive allows for the removal of stop signs to improve traffic flow
  • Removing stop signs and reconfiguring the two Sentinel Drive intersections at Northside and Southside Drives eliminates traffic delays

Why are all the changes being tried at once?

The goal of this pilot is to relieve traffic congestion as much as possible throughout Yosemite Valley. All of the road and intersection changes are needed at once because they work together to relieve traffic congestion. If only some of the changes are implemented, traffic conditions would be worse in other areas.
What can visitors do to help decrease traffic congestion?
Visitors can help relieve traffic congestion in Yosemite Valley by:

  • Arriving and departing earlier or later than the most popular travel times. This means avoiding driving in the valley between 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
  • Once their vehicle is parked, they should walk or bike (rather than drive) to travel around the valley. (Shuttle service is not available in 2021.)

What data will be collected during the pilot and how will it be used?

During the pilot, the park will be collecting the following data:

  • Traffic volume counts on Valley roads before and during the pilot to compare to 2019 counts
  • Observations of drivers along Southside Drive to understand the effectiveness of wayfinding and sign changes
  • Observations at intersections to understand how well intersection reconfigurations and crosswalk changes are working
  • Counts of vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles moving through key intersections to measure the effectiveness of the pilot and the accuracy of the computer model
  • Observations of vehicles and pedestrians around Curry Village to understand if the changes to the intersection near Curry Village are workable for the long term

What other measures has the park taken to reduce congestion?

Over the past three decades, as visitation has increased from 3.3 million in 1989 to 4.4 million in 2019, the park has tried numerous ways to manage traffic in Yosemite Valley in an attempt to relieve congestion and allow for adequate emergency vehicle response, including:

  • Encouraging visitors to arrive earlier in the morning
  • Implementing access checkpoints in Yosemite Valley and turning around vehicles when east Valley is full
  • Rerouting traffic in the middle of the valley across El Capitan Crossover
  • Rerouting traffic across Sentinel Drive
  • Sending all traffic to Curry Village on Southside Drive
  • Closing access beyond the four-way intersection near Curry Village once east Valley parking is full
  • Closing access to Yosemite Village parking once it is full
  • Constructing additional parking west of Yosemite Valley Lodge
  • Designating emergency vehicle/bus lanes,
  • Expanding the Yosemite Valley shuttle service to the west Valley
  • Employing traffic rangers to efficiently manage busy intersections and other chokepoints
  • Converting Northside Drive from the Lower Yosemite Fall intersection to Camp 4 to one way traffic

These efforts have been tried separately and in combination, and none has resolved traffic congestion, and some efforts have increased gridlock in the west Valley.

Will driving on Sentinel Drive on the opposite side of the road be dangerous?

The pilot includes changing the direction of traffic flow on Sentinel Drive so that vehicles drive on the opposite side of the road. To physically separate traffic flowing in opposite directions, water-filled plastic traffic barriers and traffic delineators with reflective markings will be installed in the Sentinel/Southside Drive and the Sentinel/Northside Drive intersections as well as along the Sentinel Road centerline. Additional safety measures include revisions to signs and striping, removal of road shoulder parking, and relocation of crosswalks. When driving within the speed limit and following road signs and markings, most drivers are not likely to consider driving on the opposite side of the road as unusual.

Would it make more sense to test pilot during a time of normal visitation when vehicles are not limited by reservations?

Since most vehicles end up in eastern Yosemite Valley, transportation planners expect there to be adequate traffic to test the pilot even with the reservation system in place.

What will happen to the emergency vehicle/bus lanes during the pilot?

During the pilot, the bus lanes along Southside and Northside Drives will be open for use by all vehicles. Since traffic congestion is expected to be reduced during the pilot, the bus lanes will not be necessary.

How will the pilot affect large vehicles?

During the pilot, vehicles longer than 30 feet will not be permitted on Sentinel Drive. To travel between Southside and Northside Drives, vehicles longer than 30 feet must cross the river via Stoneman Bridge (near Curry Village) and El Capitan Bridge (near El Capitan Meadow). This is due to the use of temporary barriers during the pilot. (If the park decides to make the road and intersection changes permanent, permanent design changes will accommodate large vehicles on Sentinel Drive.)

 
Map showing new circulation in Yosemite Valley for large vehicles

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Phone:

209/372-0200

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