By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
They say there are two seasons in Yellowstone – winter and road construction.
Even though Yellowstone National Park is set to open its gates beginning April 16, preparations are already being made for three major road construction projects will occur in the park this year.
One project will force the closure of the highway between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Junction, while the other two projects will cause delays and/or traffic pattern changes — one at the Old Faithful Overpass Bridge and the other at the North Entrance.
Morgan Warthin, Public Affairs Specialist for Yellowstone, asked for patience from motorists who are visiting the “upper loop” of the Park this summer.
“Last year, the road from Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Village was closed — and we ask for visitors’ patience, because that road again will be closed this year for road construction,” she said.
This is the second year of the project that will widen the road, provide additional or improved pullouts, create a larger, safer parking area at Tower Fall General Store and improve the Tower Fall’s trail and overlook. The project’s anticipated completion date is May of 2022.
But Warthin added that with the closure of that road comes an additional inconvenience.
“That means access to all of the trails around the Mount Washburn area are also closed because of the road construction,” she said.
However, Yellowstone officials point out that the Park has more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails – in lieu of Mount Washburn, hikers could consider Bunsen Peak near Mammoth Hot Springs, Purple Mountain north of Madison Junction or Avalanche Peak along the East Entrance Road.
The two other road construction projects in Yellowstone are finishing up and are expected to be completed later this year.
According to park officials, the North Entrance is not equipped to meet the challenges of increasing visitation and traffic.
The construction project there will improve traffic and pedestrian flow. The project is being funded by the Federal Highways Administration, Yellowstone Forever, the National Park Foundation and fees collected in the park.
While no delays are expected with the North Entrance construction project, the same is not true for the Old Faithful Overpass Bridge.
Motorists are cautioned that delays up to 15 minutes could occur to accommodate one-lane travel over the overpass bridge. However, travelers will be able to access Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin, lodges, stores, clinic and gas station.
Park officials urge motorists to drive slowly through road construction and be alert to workers, heavy equipment, wildlife and other hazards.