Monitor Pass opens earlier than normal |

Monitor Pass opens earlier than normal

Gary Kank

Warm weather and a light winter season in general, has led California Department of Transportation officials to reopen Monitor Pass which connects Highway 89 with US Interstate 395.

Last week’s opening of the scenic Alpine County bypass is the earliest time in the past 10 years the road has been accessible. The pass, which sits at 8,350 feet is typically out of service from the first snow until late April or early May.

“This is the earliest time in recent memory we have opened this stretch of road. The opening of the pass is a direct result of the marginal winter season we’ve had,” said Cal Trans maintenance supervisor Neal Nyswonger.

Snow levels on Monitor Pass have been decreasing significantly in the past weeks which allowed Cal Trans to evaluate the area for reopening last Friday.

“With the snow level sitting right at 2 to 3 feet when we cleared the road, it was an obvious decision to reopen.” Nyswonger said.

The reopening is a benefit for those who live and work in the Markleeville area.

“It really makes things more convenient for the community,” Nyswonger said. “There are a lot of local businesses that benefit from this road being more accessible.”

Not only is the community benefited, but recreation enthusiasts can now access Heenan Lake and the many hiking trails in the surrounding area.

While Monitor Pass is the first to open, officials are currently waiting on reopening other high mountain passes such as Ebbetts on Highway 4 and the Yosemite passes, Tioga and Sonora.

“It may be warming up down in the valleys, but it’s extremely cold at night at the higher altitudes and we’re still seeing limited snowfall up there,” said Robert Spradling, public information officer for Cal Trans.

Ebbetts Pass which sits at 8,700 feet is still a few weeks away from being opened. Spradling is projecting an April 15 evaluation date.

“With the snow pack as heavy as it is up there right now, we are going to wait a few more weeks. The primary factor in reopening is safety, not only to those who will be plowing the area, but to the motorists that will be traveling the road.”

Further information on road closures and reopenings can be obtained at the Cal Trans Web site,

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