Part of the Bay Area News Group

a light in the wilderness

By enelson
Tuesday, August 29th, 2006 at 11:05 pm in Bicycling, Caltrans, Environment, Funding, Safety.

The High Falls (1855) by Thomas Almond Ayres, from, photographed by Michael Dixon, Yosemite National Park 

1855 Thomas Ayres Yosemite drawing.jpg

I got another call from Ken Gosting, henceforth known here as the Voice of Yosemite, about the latest news from Mariposa County.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with commuting in the Bay Area?

The conceit here is that Mariposa County has, by accident of geology, become more like the Bay Area.
It all goes back to the rockslide on Route 140, which prompted the U.S. Geological Survey to send state-of-the-art global positioning monitors developed on Mt. Saint Helens.

I’m convinced that were it not for Ken Gosting, word of the slide, which blocked one of the three  routes into Yosemite National Park for months, wouldn’t have gotten farther than Merced.

Today he called to announce that not only had Caltrans succeeded in building bridges across the Merced River to get around the sliding slate slabs, it was putting up a stoplight.

It would be the first and only traffic light in the county, and, according to Gosting, make Mariposa the last California county to be conquered by civilization as we know it.

“They tried to put in a stoplight in downtown Mariposa about six years ago,’’ Gosting related. “It was at Route 49 and Route 140. Caltrans laid the wiring for them.’’

But the Mariposans saw red, rising up against the light scheme, not wanting to be the last domino to fall after Alpine County succumbed to the inexorable pressures of urban growth and installed a signal.

Threats were made. The light would be extinguished before it completed a cycle, some vowed.

“Caltrans said we’ve had enough over dealing with the stoplight issue,’’ Gosting recalled, and pulled the plug on the idea.

This new light will regulate the flow of traffic on the one-lane bridges so oncoming motorists will have to wait until the bridge is clear before getting the green light, as it were.

“This one everyone’s going for,’’ Gosting told me, because they’re frankly tired of Route 140 being closed.
Upon further interrogation, Gosting admitted that there had, actually, been another such light, put up for precisely the same reason, to get motorists past a rockslide in the park at a place called Cookie Crumble.
But wasn’t THAT the first stoplight in Mariposa?

“They blew up the rockslide, and the light was out in a matter of weeks,’’ he said. The light on 140, where no one has the slightest idea how to clear the slide, promises to be there for years.
It is sort of sad to know that Mariposa County has to resort to such measures to circumnavigate its natural phenomena.

Now that they have a traffic signal, they’ll have to set up a board to study its effectiveness. I imagine they’ll call it the Mariposa Traffic Committee (MTC), and before you know it, they’ll be writing a ballot measure for a quarter-cent sales tax to maintain the light.

Then campers will back up at the light, and the county will need to appoint the Mariposa County Congestion Management Agency to lobby for more money from the California Transportation Commission. And the citizens will want oversight of the sales tax receipts, so there will have to be a Mariposa County Transportation Improvement Authority, otherwise known as MiCTIA.

And by this time, the Yosemite Area Bicycle Coalition will be agitating for a bike path to run alongside the one-lane temporary bridge, so they’ll want a seat on each of these agencies.

Once all this happens, I’ll convince my editor that Yosemite has become part of the Bay Area, and as such requires me to divide my workweek between Yosemite and the East Bay.

“There’s just so much going on,’’ I’ll say, “Ken just can’t keep up.”

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