Friday, May 24, 2013

Rehabilitating the Going-to-the-Sun-Road

By Cassandra Sunell

On the Going-To-The-Sun-Road

If you have traveled along the Going-to-the-Sun road in the past several years, you may have noticed the improvements in the road structure, or maybe you just noticed the long construction delay. I can say that I have spent my fair share of time in construction delays on this historic road, and in most situations I would have moaned and groaned, but in Glacier Park, it's quite different and maybe even a little pleasurable.  In the past summer I had spent the delays sitting atop the newly built rock walls eating my lunch, taking pictures, and meeting other visitors who had traveled to visit the national park.  The park has essentially been my back yard all of my life, yet till, this park and those vistas never seem to disappoint...even when I'm stuck in construction traffic.  

My sister and I enjoying the view and lunch during a construction delay in the summer of 2012
My appreciation for the ongoing construction became a full appreciation, when I had an opportunity to attend a public meeting where Glacier National Park Landscape Architect, Jack Gordon and Federal Highway Administration Resident Engineer, Mike Baron discussed the extensive rehabilitation project and ongoing construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Turns out, the Road Rehabilitation Project for the Going-to-the-Sun Road was not intended to be a resting point for visitors to eat their lunch and communicate along the road, but was a greatly needed to be reconstructed to restructure the foundation, integrity, drainage, and safety of the road.  This all being done with the intent to try and keep the the historic integrity of the landscape architecture.

The project started back in 2006, and is estimated to to have cost between $150-$170 million when it is completed.  Construction has included compaction grouting under the roadway, where concrete is injected in columns and the ground is compacted surrounding these columns, installing drainage gutters, inlets, and culverts, building retaining walls and guard rails, and slope stabilization to control rock fall.   The designers and engineers collaborated to use stone masonry, that mimicked the original stonework to mask the complex stabilization and retaining improvements.   The construction crews face many challenges, including the very short construction period, harsh weather conditions, avalanches, rock slides, and the meandering wildlife, but they remain confident that they will have completed the project by 2017.

FHA Resident Engineer, Mike Baron discusses slope stabilization
The road is scheduled to open the 3rd week in June and typically closes the 3rd week in September, with the delays lasting anywhere up to 40 minutes if you happen to be stopped at both points of construction over the entire trek of the road from the east to west side of the park.  There are signs that do say to stay in your vehicle during delays, since the reloading is what will generally deepen the delay of travelers getting through the construction zone.  I did not recall seeing these signs before, but I did take note.

Yes, the construction will make most travelers moan and groan, because there are trails to hike, views to see, and agendas to fulfill, but please take the time to appreciate the views and the work that is being done here.  All the arduous work, so we don't compromise the safety of our travelers, and we can spend another 80 years traveling on the road to view the wonders of Glacier National Park, while still having the aesthetic feel it did 80 years ago when it was first built.  

Actual photo I snapped while in a construction delay

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