Glacier Modifies Contract to Save Red Bus Fleet

By Beacon Staff

Glacier National Park announced on Tuesday that it had updated its concessions contract to protect the park’s iconic Red Buses. The changes came after park advocates and former employees raised concerns that the bus fleet would not be preserved.

Earlier this year, Glacier began to seek bidders for the next 16-year concessions contract that begins on Jan. 1, 2014. In the original contract, it said the next operator had to rehabilitate 15 buses before 2025 and then replace the remaining 18 by 2029.

“I think they undervalued the historical significance of the fleet as a whole,” said Glacier Park Foundation president John Hagen.

The White Motor Company constructed 35 Model 706 tour buses for use in Glacier National Park between 1936 and 1939. During the first half of the 20th century, the Model 706 buses could be found on the roads in national parks all across the West. Today, only the Glacier fleet remains and 33 Red Buses are operational in 2013.

Glacier Park Inc. owned the buses until 1999, when they were donated to the National Park Service after Ford rebuilt the entire fleet at a cost of nearly $7 million.

The contract clarifications announced on Tuesday, state that the buses must be maintained as a fleet and requires a conditions assessment every five years. It also requires the selected concessioner to establish and manage a rehabilitation reserve to ensure funds are available when work is needed.

“We believe the modifications to the prospectus clearly define our intent to maintain the iconic Red Bus fleet at Glacier National Park,” said acting Superintendent Kym Hall. “We want visitors to have the opportunity to enjoy the traditional experience of the Red Buses for years to come.”

Glacier Park, Inc. has held the current concessions contract since 1981 and operates the park’s lodges, gift shops and tours. The new contract will last 16 years and bids are due April 2.

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