Flathead County

North Fork Road Maintenance Project Delayed

After passing through legal obstacles, the multi-jurisdictional project will not proceed this summer due to funding issues

By Micah Drew
North Fork Road. Beacon File Photo

A multi-jurisdictional maintenance project set to improve several miles of the North Fork Road is going to be delayed another year, according to Flathead County Public Works Director Dave Prunty. 

Four government agencies — Flathead County, Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park and the U.S. Border Patrol — joined forces to apply for money through the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) to service the road, but one agency is no longer able to provide its share. 

FLAP was established to improve transportation routes that provide access to, are adjacent to, or located within federal lands, supplementing state and local resources for public roads. The local agencies are required to provide a 13.42% match of the federal funding.  

In 2016, when the Flathead County Commission first voted to move forward with the project, the U.S. Forest Service committed to contribute $126,000, Glacier Park kicked in $15,000, Border Patrol pledged $100,000 and the county offered to provide $32,525 for dust palliative. 

“Sometime or other, in the Border Patrol world, they deobligated that $100,000,” Prunty said. “So we’re in a hurry up and wait situation.”

Whitefish Border Patrol Station Patrol Agent-in-charge Christopher Young said that the funding was deobligated due to project delays.

“It was supposed to be 2019, then 2020. We’re working on getting it reobligated,” Young said. 

A delay of the project last year was due to the Federal Highway Administration refusing to do work on a portion of North Fork Road that did not have a public access easement on it. Flathead County purchased the easement from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation last year. 

The scope of the project is to make improvements to the northern five miles of North Fork Road to the Canadian border, a stretch of road that serves as an access point for about 300 residents and thousands of recreationists visiting Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest each year. In addition, a portion of Glacier Drive, from the end of the Polebridge Bridge to the intersection of the Polebridge Loop, will be reconstructed.

The published timeline for the North Fork Road section of the project has construction slated to start in July of this year. 

“The construction season on the North Fork doesn’t last that long,” Prunty said. “With that, the very strong likelihood is that the project won’t go forward this year.”

Prunty said that his talks with Border Patrol have not given any indication of when the funding might be reallocated, noting the issue might have to go all the way to the federal office.   

The improvement to Glacier Drive is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2022. 

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