In what could be classified as some friendly arm twisting, Montana Sen. Max Baucus hand delivered a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood Wednesday, asking that he use stimulus money to fund reconstruction of Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Lahood’s department received $1.5 billion in the Jobs Bill to fund infrastructure projects of “regional or national significance.” Baucus wrote:
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is the crown jewel of Montana and a national treasure. Whether driving, touring on a bicycle, walking, or riding on the historic Jammers, the Going to the Sun Road provides majestic views of soaring peaks, pristine lakes, and wildlife. And I have consistently fought to make sure it receives the necessary funding to maintain this historic road.
Sen. Jon Tester is also pushing for Sun Road funding, vowing that he’ll “keep working to make sure we get our fair share.”
I’m betting that the Democrats get the money. I base that, not on inside information, but on the photo (see above) of Baucus and Lahood attached to a press release announcing the two had met. I doubt Lahood would agree to a photo op if he is planning on ignoring the funding request. And that’s a good thing – any dollars sent this way will help both the park and the Flathead economies.
Here’s Baucus’ entire letter:
Dear Mr. Secretary:
The Going to the Sun road is the crown jewel of Montana and a national treasure. Whether driving, touring on a bicycle, walking, or riding on the historic Jammers, the Going to the Sun Road provides majestic views of soaring peaks, pristine lakes, and wildlife. And I have consistently fought to make sure it receives the necessary funding to maintain this historic road.
In the recently-enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Congress created a $1.5 billion competitive grant program to fund transportation infrastructure projects of national or regional significance. At the appropriate time, I hope you will consider the Going to the Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park for a funding grant. According to the National Park Service, $120 million is the amount needed to complete ongoing rehabilitation of this national treasure, which hosts thousands of tourists each year.
The ARRA legislation required the Office of the Secretary to consider eligible projects bearing a minimum cost of $20 million. Further, the Department is required to fund a sufficient number of projects in rural areas. The Going to the Sun Road clearly satisfies both of these requirements.
I am currently working with relevant authorities in Montana to prepare a grant application. I understand that the Department of Transportation has yet to implement eligibility guidelines. But, as noted above, I hope you will give consideration to this meritorious project at the appropriate time. Please feel free to contact me or my staff if you need any information.
For more than 75 years, the Going to the Sun Road has been a lifeline for Glacier National Park, and for Montana. Every year, thousands of visitors travel this majestic piece of road and enjoy all that the park has to offer. I can think of no project more deserving, no project more worthy, than the Going to the Sun road to receive funding.
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