Crews Prep Going-to-the-Sun Road

Park plows road while pavement resealing continues

By Hunter D'Antuono
A road crews member installs a section of guard rail along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park on June 5, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Plow crews from the east and west sides of Glacier National Park met one another on Logan Pass on the morning of June 5, marking the end of the heavy lifting in spring snow removal on the Going-to-the-Sun-Road.

Meanwhile, road maintenance crews will be resealing and patching the asphalt along Going-to-the-Sun throughout the summer as part of a pavement preservation project.

Glacier National Park spokesperson Lauren Alley said the whole road will reopen to all types of traffic sometime after June 21, depending on conditions. The park recommends keeping abreast of current road conditions and closures at: nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm.

Chris Rossmiller, a senior project engineer for the Federal Highway Administration, said about 90 miles of road are slated for resurfacing in the park. About 10 miles are completed so far.

The entire length of Going-to-the-Sun Road, from West Glacier to St. Mary, will undergo maintenance. Chief Mountain Road, a portion of Camas Road, parking lots and other spur roads throughout the park are also a part of the pavement preservation project. Rossmiller said the project contract extends until July of 2020. Up to 30-minute traffic delays are possible in places where the crew is working.

Most of the road will receive a “micro-seal” treatment, which is smoother than a common chip seal and easier on bicycles.

Further up the road, Glacier Park plow crew supervisors said it was an average year for snow removal, with an average number of avalanches and no accidents.

Although an avalanche stranded 13 cyclists on Going-to-the-Sun Road for several hours on Memorial Day, physical scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey Erich Peitzsch said that was a “typical-sized” slide. He described overall avalanche activity as “unremarkable” this season.

Road work leader Brian Paul said crews had to clear 38 avalanches from previously plowed sections of road — a typical number of slides. He said Logan Pass had less snow than usual.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service data, snowpack in the Flathead Basin, which encompasses Glacier National Park, was 53 percent of normal as of June 10.

The Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot was bare and mostly dry on June 5, and the steps leading up to the visitor center were exposed to the bright sun.

“It went pretty well this year,” said Glacier road supervisor Stan Stahr, who is retiring this year after clearing Going-to-the-Sun Road since 1993. “Everything held together.”