North Fork Road Improvement Project Moves Forward

Project would enhance more than 20 miles of roadway on the North Fork Road

By Beacon staff
North Fork Road. Beacon File Photo

The Flathead County Commission voted unanimously on March 24 to move forward with a proposed project among the county and federal partners to rehabilitate the North Fork Road.

The project, part of the Montana Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP), seeks to make improvements to the road, which serves as an access point for about 300 residents and thousands of recreationists each year.

FLAP was established to improve transportation routes that provide access to, are adjacent to, or located within federal lands. The program supplements state and local resources for public roads and transit systems. The North Fork project is still in the application phase.

As a travel corridor, the North Fork Road provides primary access for high-use recreation sites on U.S. Forest Services lands, and also provides access to Glacier National Park’s Polebridge entrance.

Flathead County joined forces with the Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park, and U.S. Border Patrol to apply for the FLAP money, which would pay for all but a 13.42 percent match required from the local agencies receiving the funding.

The proposal looks to add safety improvements to 20.75 miles of the northern section of road from Polebridge to the Canadian border, including 14.32 miles of aggregate surfacing, crush, and laydown. The project also proposes slop reinforcement at two sites along the road, and 1.5 miles of earthwork to raise the road grade with ditch borrow material. It will also add more signing throughout.

Residents have long discussed whether to pave the North Fork Road, which tends to be a contentious topic in which dust abatement is pitted against construction in a relatively wild place.

This proposed project wouldn’t pave the road, but it would improve it with smoother and safer surfaces, along with proper widths and adding dust abatement properties during maintenance.

The whole project is expected to cost just over $2 million, and the four agencies applying for the funding will combine resources to pay the 13.42 percent match. The Forest Service will contribute $126,000, Glacier National Park is kicking $15,000, Border Patrol has pledged $100,000, and Flathead County has offered to provide $32,525 for dust palliative.

The project has also received support from the North Fork Landowners’ Association and several other landowners in the area.