Four years ago, Yellowstone reported a maintenance backlog exceeding $586 million, more than half of which related to park roads. This year the park is investing about $155 million to improve roads, …
Four years ago, Yellowstone reported a maintenance backlog exceeding $586 million, more than half of which related to park roads. This year the park is investing about $155 million to improve roads, parking lots and overlooks. Unfortunately, that means a lot of construction in the park.
Park officials report a small window to do the projects. Due to extreme winter weather in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, April through early November are the only months crews have for repairing and maintaining park roads and bridges — the same months millions of visitors have to experience the world’s first national park.
Three large road construction projects are scheduled in 2022; all causing major delays. The three include the removal and replacement of the Lewis River Bridge, refurbishing 22 miles of the Grand Loop Road between Old Faithful and West Thumb, and replacement of the Yellowstone River Bridge. Two of three projects will include overnight closures for certain periods during the summer and two projects will linger for more than a year.
Safety of visitors and construction workers is the park’s highest priority. While driving through the construction projects and around the park, spokesperson Linda Veress reminds visitors that traffic-related accidents are the most common cause of injury and death in the park.
“Don’t let the scenery distract you: drive cautiously and watch for animals,” she said, adding “pack your patience: winding roads and traffic often make drive times much longer than expected.”
If you need to stop for any reason, use a pullout. “Do not block traffic,” she said.
Park officials also have asked visitors to the East Entrance to anticipate temporary road closures due to increased avalanche danger. The East Entrance Road will close for periods of time today and Wednesday thanks to recent snowfall and warm temperatures.
Active Construction Projects
The project at the Lewis River Bridge (10 miles north of the South Entrance) has already begun and is expected to be finished in the fall of 2023. Expect construction and delays of up to 20 minutes. There will be occasional overnight closures between 7 p.m.–9 a.m. Nearby pullouts and the trail to Lewis River Falls will be closed during construction.
The project includes the removal and replacement of the 273-foot-long bridge, which was built in 1960. A new bridge will be constructed immediately downstream to preserve safe visitor access between South Entrance and West Thumb. Parking areas, overlooks, and walkways in this area will also be updated and reconfigured to “reduce traffic hazards and improve accessibility for visitors,” according to a Yellowstone press release.
The Grand Loop Road between Old Faithful and West Thumb will be under construction until Nov. 1, 2022. Delays of up to 30 minutes and overnight closures will occur from 8 p.m.–6 a.m. beginning Sept. 5 until roads close for the season.
The work includes the rehabilitation of one of the most heavily traveled road corridors in the park. Construction will include repaving the full 30-foot-wide roadway segment, which was last repaved in 1987. Guardrails, culverts and other drainage structures will also be replaced during the project.
Replacement of the Yellowstone River Bridge (near Tower Junction along the Northeast Entrance Road) will take until the fall of 2025 before motorists will see the new bridge unveiled.
The project begins this fall and is expected to run for three years. Expect delays up to 30 minutes in the Yellowstone River Bridge area year-round. The Yellowstone River Picnic Area and Wrecker Curve access road and parking area will be closed during construction. However, popular area hiking trails will remain open.
A new bridge upstream will replace the existing 604-foot-long bridge, built in 1963, to preserve year-round access to/from the Northeast Entrance and communities of Silver Gate and Cooke City, Montana. New pullouts and paved parking areas will increase access to trails, fishing and viewpoints. The Yellowstone River Picnic Area will also be enlarged to accommodate increased visitor use.
All the projects are funded through the Great American Outdoors Act and Legacy Restoration Fund.
Two projects coming to an end include the $28 million, two-year construction project from Tower-Roosevelt to Chittenden Road (near Dunraven Pass). It is expected to be open May 27, weather-permitting. This segment of road remained largely unchanged since the last improvements in the 1930s. Construction work for this project included widening roughly 6 miles of the Grand Loop Road and providing additional and improved pullouts; creating a larger, safer parking area at Tower Fall General Store; improving the trail and overlook for Tower Fall; and reconditioning Chittenden Road and reconstructing the Mount Washburn parking area.
The park received a grant through the Nationally Significant Federal Lands Program and matched it with fee dollars collected in the park to fund the project.
The $12 million North Entrance project, which included adding an additional lane and kiosk, replacing the existing two structures with three new entrance kiosk buildings, updating 2 miles of roadway, improving the flow of employee and delivery traffic and foot traffic on Robert Reamer Avenue is complete.
Funding for this project came from the Federal Highways Administration, Yellowstone Forever, National Park Foundation, and fees collected in the park.
To find up-to-date road conditions in Yellowstone check the park’s website or text “82190” to 888-777 to receive Yellowstone road alerts on your mobile phone.