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Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406-888-5838
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Glacier National Park Superintendent Mick Holm today announced that the full intent of the Going-to-the-Sun (Sun) Road Rehabilitation Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) goes into effect this autumn with the first shoulder season travel limitations. Beginning on Monday, September 18, 2006, contractor Sandry Construction of Kalispell begins work at two recent slide zones near the historic Sun Road’s east tunnel.
This fall, alpine work will limit vehicle traffic between Siyeh Bend and Logan Pass, a distance of 2.5 miles, to accommodate accelerated road work. To better ensure that autumn travelers have accurate information – fall 2006 road work impacts only 2.5 miles of the entire 50-mile roadway – an informational flyer has been prepared for wide distribution this fall.
Sandry Construction Company of Bigfork/Kalispell has been operating since June on four work zones between the west tunnel and the Big Drift area just east of Logan Pass. Under the terms specified in the FEIS, during busy summer months – mid-June to mid-September when 2 million visitors annually visit Glacier National Park – contractors are required to keep traffic delays to a maximum of 30 minutes during peak traffic hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) or less and thereby ensure ‘shared use’ of the road during peak traffic hours of the primary travel season.
Holm stated, “This fall alpine work is part of the overall compromise that resulted from the Going-to-the-Sun Road Citizens Advisory Committee and resultant public involvement. During this autumn work, vehicles may access Logan Pass from the west and may also travel the east side of the Sun Road approximately 15 miles from St. Mary to Siyeh Bend.” No public access will be allowed through the work zone during work periods; however non-motorized use (hikers and bicyclists) will be allowed during evening hours and on weekends when the contractor is not working. Road work schedules are issued each week via the park’s E-blast list and are posted on Glacier’s web site at http://www.nps.gov/glac/sunroad/whatsup.htm along with the fall traveler flyer which is also posted on the Sun Road web site for public use. “After many years of public involvement and compromise, we are finally embarking on the first of many shoulder season traffic restrictions on the alpine section of the Sun Road. Given the reality of spring snow pack and potential avalanche danger in then alpine zones, the fall will likely be the most productive season for contractors to make headway on the road improvements,” Holm stated.
Holm explained that after two years (2000-2002) of studying numerous issues associated with rehabilitation of Glacier’s National Historic Landmark roadway, the Citizens Advisory Committee, the NPS and its partner agency, the Federal Highway Administration, all agreed on a preferred alternation. The recommended alternative includes numerous mitigation measures to ensure continued two-way vehicle access along the entire Sun Road throughout the summer season, while accommodating short delays for some work. Beyond the peak summer season (mid-June to mid-September) road rehabilitation work will be allowed in the alpine zone as weather permits, when visitor traffic is considerably less than summer months. Sandry Construction is operating under a one-year contract scheduled for completion in late fall 2006.
In other Going-to-the-Sun Road news, Holm reported that contractor James Talcott Construction, Inc., of Great Falls, began tree clearing this week to prepare for construction of the Apgar Transit Center (ATC) near the West Glacier entrance with the intent that the Sun Road transit system will be phased into operation beginning in 2007. Visitors using the optional shuttle system will be able to stop at numerous locations, primarily along the Sun Road, including several campgrounds. There will be no additional charge to ride the shuttle beyond the normal park entrance fee. As recommended by Citizens Advisory Committee and subsequently in the FEIS preferred alternative, numerous mitigation measures are being phased into operation to help maintain visitor use and Sun Road access while reducing congestion caused by road work and to help reduce economic impacts.
The ATC will be constructed at the “T-intersection” near Apgar Village, about one mile beyond the park entrance at West Glacier. Holm stressed, “The new shuttle service is not intended to provide interpretive tours. Visitors desiring to learn about the park are encouraged to participate in one of the park’s existing tour services.” Blackfeet interpretive tours provided by SunTours 800-786-9220 and the historic red bus interpretive tours provided by Glacier Park, Inc. 406-892-2525 will continue to provide these interpretive services.
The transit complex will provide public restrooms and public parking for 132 passenger vehicles and 15 recreational vehicles. The transit center will also provide various public information displays and self-service, interactive computer kiosks for self-service trip-planning; the transit facility will not be staffed. Glacier’s west side visitor center will remain at its current location in Apgar Village and will be connected by a trail to the transit hub. A second transit hub will also be established at the east entrance, as part of the St. Mary Visitor Center.
Editor’s Note: A media opportunity will be scheduled at the site of the Apgar Transit Center at a yet-to-be-determined date; however, recent tree clearing photos are available at http://www.nps.gov/glac/gallery/081506.htm
Questions about Going-to-the-Sun Road rehabilitation and mitigation projects should be directed to Amy Vanderbilt at 406-888-5838.