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Sun seekers expect delays

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Construction work on the alpine section of Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is set to begin next month, and while the road will remain open throughout the construction period, visitors can expect to encounter some delays.

“In many respects it will be more of what we’ve been experiencing the last few years,” says Amy Vanderbilt, outreach and road communication coordinator for the park, of the eight- to 10-year comprehensive rehabilitation project.

For almost two decades construction crews have been repairing and refurbishing portions of the Going-to-the-Sun Road piecemeal, as part of a reconstruction effort that began in 1988; this year, however, marks the beginning of a full-bore rehab project on the highest and most spectacular portions of the scenic highway.

Earlier this month Sen. Max Baucus added an amendment to a federal supplemental spending bill that would clear the way for $50 million in federal money for the rehabilitation of Going-to-the-Sun Road. The money was originally designated in a transportation bill last year, but the Federal Highway Administration refused to distribute the funds due to the legislation’s wording. Baucus’ amendment to the current spending bill fixes that language, though it still needs to clear a joint House-Senate conference committee and be signed by the president.

Vanderbilt says about $45 million of the estimated $150 million needed to complete the project has already been appropriated.

Sandry Construction Company of Kalispell/Bigfork will begin about $2.5 million worth of rehab work mid-June.

“The goal is to limit delays to a total of 30 minutes from end to end,” says Matt Graves, a park spokesperson. “So visitors might get stopped on the road twice, but the cumulative delay shouldn’t be more than 30 minutes.”

During non-peak hours, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., travelers may experience up to hour-long delays on one-way trips down (and up) the 50-mile stretch of highway.

But if you’re going to be stuck in traffic for an hour, there are worse places to do it than 6,000 feet up in Glacier National Park.

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