Crews Hope to Finish Beartooth Highway Projects

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – Road crews are hoping to complete projects on the scenic Beartooth Highway before the snow flies.

“We’re pushing to get it done this year,” said Bert McCauley, project manager for the Central Federal Lands Highway Division in Lakewood, Colo. “It’s all weather-dependent at this point.”

The 67-mile route follows a precipitous climb with hairpin turns next to sheer cliffs to nearly 11,000 feet and offers stunning views of mountain ranges while taking motorists from Red Lodge to Cooke City and the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

This summer crews have been rebuilding and repaving about 18 miles from the top of Beartooth Pass westward down to Clay Butte.

Also, a new bridge is being built west of the Top of the World store.

HK Contractors of Idaho Falls, Idaho, is working on that part of the project that costs $13.2 million, including $4.5 million for the bridge.

Part of the Beartooth Highway — U.S. Highway 212 — is in Wyoming. But officials there have refused to maintain it until it meets modern engineering standards.

But the road, originally built between 1931 and 1936, only measures 18 feet wide in some sections.

“There are still a lot of the bridges that are functionally obsolete,” McCauley said. “We’re trying to get money to rebuild the lower seven miles.”

Work has also been taking place on 4.2 miles of road between Cooke City and Silver Gate near Yellowstone National Park.

“We just finished paving,” said Jason Hahn, the project’s engineer.

He said work remaining includes putting in signs and reseeding. A final inspection is scheduled for Sept. 29.

One of the most significant repairs on the highway occurred in 2005 when a huge mudslide took out 13 sections of the steep road. The road was closed all summer, but rebuilding the road was finished by October.

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