Tioga Road near Tenaya Lake - Yosemite National Park CAA view from the upper Yosemite Creek area.
New Deal agencies realigned and reconstructed 47 miles of the Tioga road from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass over the years 1933 to 1943. They were not able, however, to complete the road down from Tioga Pass to Lee Vining (Mono Lake), which remained in deplorable condition until it was remade in 1961.
Funding for the Tioga Road project came from the Public Works Administration (PWA); the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) managed construction, using private companies; and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) did auxiliary work landscaping roadsides. The National Park Service (NPS) oversaw all work in the park. The short-lived Civil Works Administration (CWA) may have done some preparation work in 1933-34. In 1939, the Federal Works Agency (FWA) became the administrative parent of both the PWA and BPA (whose name was changed to the Public Roads Administration).
Tioga Road is the highest mountain highway in California. The original road was constructed in the early 1880s in order to access mining areas. Within a few years, the mines played out and the road was abandoned and subject to washouts. In 1890, Yosemite National Park was created and some improvements were made to the deteriorated road. In 1925, the National Park Service and Bureau of Public Roads (U.S. Department of Agriculture) signed a Memorandum of Agreement to construct new roads within the park. Planning, surveying and some construction took place in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but most of the work was done during the New Deal years.
Broesamle (2022) provides this description of progress on the road:
“By October 1934, the first phase of the Tioga Road project, close to twelve miles long and including the bridge, was complete except for paving. That same month, the Idaho construction firm Morrison-Knudsen began work on the second phase, running eleven miles eastward from Crane Flat to McSwain Meadows (just beyond White Wolf). In 1935, the third, final leg of the road, from McSwain Meadows to Tuolumne, was surveyed. But while the entire Tioga Road had been planned for completion by the end of the 1930s, progress stalled. Along this last leg, the old track remained the only route. Campers darkly referred to this stretch as The Twenty-One Miles.”
The photo below of Tioga Road with Tenaya Lake in the background shows some bad scarring of the granite by poor dynamiting practices on the 19th century Tioga Road – something the New Deal era builders studiously avoided.
Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) on Tioga Road available at: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Tioga_Road_(HAER_No._CA-149)_written_historical_and_descriptive_data
(this report contains some errors as to the New Deal agencies involved, however)
Project originally submitted by Andrew Laverdiere on October 20, 2017.
Additional contributions by John Broesamle.
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