Wyoming has received a $16.6 million federal grant to rebuild a portion of the Beartooth Highway outside Yellowstone National Park.
The highway connects Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance and Cooke City, Montana to Red Lodge and Billings, MT.
The grant, called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, would complete reconstruction of the Beartooth Highway, which has been in the works for years.
According to the Billings Gazette, crews will rebuild a 1.6 mile segment that winds along a cliff near Beartooth Creek.
Gregg Fredrick, chief engineer for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, told the Gazette engineers plan to install retaining walls while they widen the highway so they don’t have to blast into cliffs. From the Gazette:
“We don’t get to design and construct roads like this much anymore,” Fredrick said. “It’s kind of exciting that this last 1.6 miles has some funding and we will get this completed.”
The seventh phase of reconstruction extends from milepost 24.5, just west of the Clay Butte Lookout turnoff, east to milepost 26.1 near Beartooth Lake at an elevation of about 8,500 feet. The work will include widening the road, improving road surface and drainage, replacing substandard bridges, constructing retaining walls to minimize environmental impacts, adding guardrails and signage and adding roadside pullouts. The reconstruction will also include two 3-foot shoulders on each side to accommodate bicyclists.
Work on the road segment will start in 2020 and is expected to last through 2021. Drivers on the Beartooth can expect delays during the summer. The road is closed during winter, typically reopening around Memorial Day Weekend, weather permitting.
The work comes as crews continue working on a segment of the Beartooth Highway between Long Lake and the Top of the World Store. Officials estimate that construction will be completed in fall 2018.
Although the Beartooth Highway (mostly) runs through Wyoming, it is actually managed by the National Park Service, which maintains the route. However, WYDOT is a member of the Beartooth Steering Committee, along with the Montana Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Yellowstone National Park, U.S. Forest Service, Wyoming and Montana Congressional staff, and other local, state, and federal officials.
The Steering Committee works to address the needs of the Beartooth Highway and the places it connects.
Reportedly, WYDOT officials learned of the grant through a press release from U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who helped secure the grant as a member of the Appropriations Committee.