Here’s some information to keep in mind as you plan next year’s travels: the outlines of the 2020 Yellowstone road construction schedule has been announced by the National Park Service.
There are three major road construction projects planned for Yellowstone National Park in 2020. One project will have a complete closure between Tower Fall and Chittenden Road, while two projects will cause delays (North Entrance and Fishing Bridge to Indian Pond).
“Our staff does an amazing job planning and implementing these road projects to maximize improvements while minimizing the impacts to visitors and gateway communities,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly via press release. “These construction projects are critical to improving safety, access, and visitor experience along Yellowstone’s roads.”
In 2018, Yellowstone reported a conservative backlog estimate of $586 million, more than half of which is related to park roads. With the completion of these three road construction projects, the park will reduce its deferred maintenance backlog by at least $50 million.
1. Tower Fall to Chittenden Road
- Improvements: This 6-mile segment of road remains largely unchanged since the last improvements in the 1930s. This construction project will widen the road and provide additional/improved pullouts; create a larger, safer parking area at Tower Fall General Store; and improve the trail and overlook for Tower Fall. To fund this project, the park received a grant through the Nationally Significant Federal Lands Program and will match it with fee dollars collected in the park.
- Access: The road between Tower Fall and Chittenden Road will be completely closed until April 2022. Specific areas on each side of this closure will be open for select time periods. Check the Road Construction webpage for details about access to Mount Washburn, Tower Fall, the Tower General Store, and Tower Fall Campground.
2. North Entrance
- Improvements: The North Entrance is not equipped to meet the challenges of increasing visitation and traffic. This construction will add an additional lane and kiosk to improve traffic flow and reduce lines; replace the existing two buildings with one larger building/station and two kiosks; improve the flow of employee and delivery traffic from Robert Reamer Avenue; improve pedestrian safety by realigning parking along Robert Reamer Avenue; and replace the water line along Robert Reamer Avenue. Funding for this project comes from the Federal Highways Administration, Yellowstone Forever, the National Park Foundation, and fees collected in the park.
- Access: Beginning in early summer, expect delays around the North Entrance. The entrance station will be open. More details, including dates, will be available after a construction contractor is selected. This project will start in 2020 and take two years.
3. Fishing Bridge to Indian Pond
- Improvements: Along this section of road, an earthen causeway has been in place since 1902 limiting Pelican Creek’s ability to flow naturally. Construction in 2020 will replace the Pelican Creek bridge and causeway with a viaduct to allow the wetland and creek to flow freely again. Crews will also put the finishing touches on work that started in 2018 to improve the deck, piers, and abutment of Fishing Bridge; add turn lanes to the facilities at Fishing Bridge; construct a larger, improved parking area to the east of the General Store; and widen the road and add/improve pullouts. Funding for this project comes from the Federal Highways Administration.
- Access: From May 4 to October 30, 2020, expect delays along the East Entrance Road between Fishing Bridge and Indian Pond. This project will be completed in 2020.
The park completed a major road construction project in 2019. It was the second phase of the Norris to Golden Gate project which widened 4.5 miles of road, increased and improved pullouts, and improved the parking lot, trail, and kiosk at Obsidian Cliff. The third and final phase of Norris to Golden Gate is planned to begin sometime after the park finishes the Tower Fall to Chittenden Road section in 2022.
Photo of previous construction near Mammoth, courtesy National Park Service.