Glacier Park Considering Temporary Vehicle Restrictions at Congested Sites

NPS seeking remedies to summer traffic jams in crowded areas

By Dillon Tabish
Logan Pass in Glacier National Park on July 22, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The National Park Service is considering temporary vehicle restrictions at certain locations throughout Glacier National Park, including the North Fork, during the busy summer months due to traffic congestion.

Lauren Alley, spokesperson at Glacier Park, said significant vehicle congestion has created safety concerns in areas where emergency vehicles are unable to adequately respond if an incident occurred.

The NPS is considering an approach that would establish a vehicle limit in certain areas and once that threshold is reached, additional vehicles would be prohibited from entry. The setup would be similar to Logan Pass, where a cap is established for parking and once it’s full, NPS staff instructs vehicles to continue to other sites.

This approach could take effect in any area of the park beginning this year, Alley said.

“We have a responsibility to ensure ingress and egress for emergency vehicles, so if we began to see a situation developing in a park area where we thought that might not be possible if more vehicles came in, we would need to temporarily sign the area as ‘full,’” Alley said.

“This is something that would only be used in those critically congested times.”

Each area of the park has designated parking areas and NPS staff are encouraging visitors to use these parking areas and if they find an area full, to not park in roadways, but rather find another park area to explore.

“Last year, with an increase of nearly 600,000 visitors, we saw parking in areas we had not seen before and traffic obstructions that we hadn’t previously witnessed,” Alley said.

The NPS has spent recent years studying remedies to traffic congestion in multiple areas of Glacier Park, particularly the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor.

Glacier has set annual attendance records for three years in a row. Last year’s visitation was 2.9 million people, a 24 percent increase over 2015. The spike in attendance, especially during the summer months, has forced the NPS to consider changes that could impact how visitors travel throughout the park.

The list of options includes expanded parking, a larger fleet of free shuttles and controlled vehicle entry through a reservation system.

The NPS published the preliminary alternatives of the Going-to-the-Sun Corridor Management Plan in May 2015, and a final proposed plan is expected to be released this summer.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.