As spring arrives in earnest, the Flathead Valley is bustling with popular outdoor activities, including hiking and biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, which despite a dip in year-to-date visitation has begun to usher a steady stream of visitors through its gates.
And as northwest Montana’s valley floors shed the last remnants of their winter coat, they are set to become a hub of roadwork this spring, including the prominent highway corridor that tracks past West Glacier. The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and Riverside Contracting will resume construction on the U.S. Highway 2 pavement preservation project on Monday, May 2, with crews working between Hungry Horse and Stanton Creek. The goal of the project, which started in April 2021, is to wrap up this season and result in a freshly paved and safer roadway for visitors to Glacier National Park this summer.
“We just have a few tasks to wrap up on US 2 this year,” MDT District Construction Engineer John Schmidt said. “We still want the public to be aware of this work, though, since some minor delays are to be expected because of it.”
Crews will return this spring to paint final roadway lines and install signage throughout this stretch of U.S. Highway 2. MDT expects the project to wrap up in June 2022. They will also plan to fix the damaged guardrail and update the sidewalk at the West Glacier entrance to meet ADA standards. For this construction to occur, crews anticipate delays of up to 15 minutes along the heavily trafficked route between neighboring communities and Glacier National Park. MDT is working directly with Glacier National Park and other organizations to coordinate efforts and limit construction-related impacts as much as possible.
“Thanks to the traveling public for their patience during this work,” Schmidt said. “We appreciate everyone’s careful driving on these curved and tight work zones.”
Last year, crews completed roughly 26 miles of pavement preservation work, including improvements to roadway resurfacing through cold in-place recycling, new pavement markings to enhance visibility, upgraded guardrail, additional rumble strips, and ADA ramp sidewalk enhancements.
The Kalispell-based Big Sky Public Relations is providing weekly project updates on behalf of MDT. Anyone interested in receiving messages can send a request to Amy Aiello at [email protected]. The public is welcome to call the project hotline (available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at (406) 207-4484 or visit the project webpage at https://www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/us2hungryhorse/ to learn more.
Following a busy February, when 18,461 people visited Glacier National Park — nearly all of them entering at West Glacier, marking a 7% increase compared to the same month in 2021 — visitation slumped in March with 24,030 park visitors compared to 30,976 during the same month last year. That pegs year-to-date visitation at 60,175 visitors through March 2022 compared to 71,752 during the same three-month period in 2021. However, park officials say that as plows make quick progress on snow-removal efforts along the Sun Road, having already cleared the alpine byway beyond The Loop, more visitors have begun frequenting the park in April. For more details about hiker and biker access, including closures and restrictions, visit the park’s website at https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/bicycling.htm
In other shoulder-season developments, Glacier National Park is partnering with LC Staffing in an effort to fill support positions for the park’s free shuttle system that operates on the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road. In addition, there are various other hiring and volunteer opportunities in the park this season, including:
LC Staffing of Kalispell, Montana has been awarded the annual contract for providing drivers, dispatchers and supervisors for Glacier National Park’s Visitor Transportation fleet, which includes 35 shuttles and buses. Candidates who are interested in applying should contact LC Staffing or apply directly on the LC Staffing Website. The Visitor Transportation Service operates a free hiker-biker shuttle that provides weekend service from May 7 until June 26, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and runs between Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche Creek. When the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens for the season, park shuttles will provide service between the Apgar and St. Mary Visitor Centers from July 1 to Labor Day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days per week. Park shuttles operate on a first come-first served basis.
Other Jobs Available at Glacier:
The park is still in its hiring season and is experiencing the same hiring challenges as businesses throughout the country. If you are interested in working for Glacier National Park this summer, contact the park’s administrative officer, Emily Keil, for information about latest job openings. Emily can be contacted at [email protected] or (406) 888-7880.
Volunteer at Glacier National Park:
The Park is looking for local volunteers that can help make a visitor’s day by serving as first contact with visitors needing help navigating the vehicle reservation system. For more information, email [email protected], or call (406) 888-7034.
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