Along beloved route to Yosemite, a bridge too far?

GARANCE BURKE - Associated Press
FILE - In this June 9, 2006 file photo, The Yosemite View Lodge on the Merced River remains cut off following a massive rock slide in El Portal, Calif. Almost 800 million tons of rocks and debris tumbled onto Highway 140, creating a blockade that forced tourists from the San Francisco Bay area to take hours-long detours to reach the valley. Some environmentalists now favor digging a tunnel through the still-shifting rubble, although biologists warn that proposal could kill off a rare, native salamander. Other groups are pushing for a broad viaduct to span the river, a solution rafting companies have claimed could cripple their business. And as the state highway repair costs soar up to $180 million dollars in turbulent economic times, many residents are hoping to call the whole thing off. (AP Photo/Al Golub, File)
FILE - In this June 9, 2006 file photo, The Yosemite View Lodge on the Merced River remains cut off following a massive rock slide in El Portal, Calif. Almost 800 million tons of rocks and debris tumbled onto Highway 140, creating a blockade that forced tourists from the San Francisco Bay area to take hours-long detours to reach the valley. Some environmentalists now favor digging a tunnel through the still-shifting rubble, although biologists warn that proposal could kill off a rare, native salamander. Other groups are pushing for a broad viaduct to span the river, a solution rafting companies have claimed could cripple their business. And as the state highway repair costs soar up to $180 million dollars in turbulent economic times, many residents are hoping to call the whole thing off.

Those who live in the mountains outside Yosemite National Park cherish the ever-changing landscape shaped by rushing water, ice and avalanches.

But since Volkwagen-sized boulders buried the only all-weather highway into the park nearly five years ago, residents, tourism officials and transportation engineers have faced a serious conundrum about how to fix the road.

About 800 million tons of falling rocks and debris created a blockade so huge some tourists had to take hours-long detours to reach the valley.

Crew have since slapped up temporary bridges across the Merced River.

Now, the latest plans for a permanent passage run as high as $180 million. Options include tunneling through the rubble and building a long concrete bridge even planners say looks more suited to Los Angeles.