MISSOULA – Contractors have wrapped up that complicated road work on the borders of Glacier National Park, bringing an end to two days of horrendous backups for heavy summer traffic.
The Montana Department of Transportation was taking care of a badly-needed chip seal project on Highway 2 east of Columbia Falls through Badrock Canyon and at the West Glacier park entrance. And that delays up to an hour or more with thousands of cars headed to and from the park.
MDT had scheduled the work to be as early as possible but with tourists rushing to get to Logan Pass and other landmarks in the morning, the crunch was on.
“This is a tough place. We recognize that we’ve got tremendous traffic counts up there. Everybody wants to get into the park. It’s a beautiful time of the year. They want to be on vacation. They don’t want us to interfere with them,” MDT Acting District Administrator Bob Vosen said.
“But what draws people to this area is the beauty and part of that is the weather we have in the winters, which allows all this glacial water to be coming out of here in the springtime that people want to see. We can’t work during the winter. We have to be here during the summer,” he added.
And it isn’t just the tourist traffic — US Highway 2 is becoming an increasingly busy corridor for all cross-state traffic, including trucks and commercial haulers. So the combination is very problematic.
Additionally, Vosen points out there’s only a very narrow window when chip seal can be applied properly, needing just the right combination of temperatures and other conditions.
“We have to have warm temperatures. We can’t have any moisture. Heavy dew can delay a start. We have to have warm, dry temperatures to perform the chip seal,” Vosen explained.
We’re spending taxpayer money and we want to make sure they get the bang for the buck. We want the stuff to last. If we want it to last we have to do it right. Which means we do it during the summer.”
Vosen says the MDT is very appreciative of everyone’s patience this week and he reminds drivers to watch for crews finishing off the project the next couple of days.
There will still be some reduced speeds and equipment will be striping the road. But except for those spots, all lanes are re-opened.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News