With its geothermal basement, harsh winters, and heavy summer traffic load, it should surprise no one that road work has to be done in Yellowstone National Park. It can be an inconvenience, but things would be much worse without it.
Last September crews finished the latest road project in the park, completing a new road alignment through Gibbon Canyon between Norris and Madison Junction and across a new 253-foot bridge over the Gibbon River.
Now park officials are turning their attention to a 15.9-mile section of the Grand Loop Road between the Norris Campground entrance and a point just north of Swan Lake Flats. The proposal currently being reviewed calls for reconstruction of the road, associated parking areas and turnouts, as well as the rehabilitation of two bridges between the campground entrance and the Swan Lake Flats area.
A park release says the work is needed for the park to maintain "acceptable engineering safety standards and provide a safe and enjoyable driving experience for visitors. It also serves to better facilitate park operations and emergency services, improve resource protection and enable more efficient use of park funds."
If the project is OKed, the first phase of construction could begin next year.
Public review and comment on the Environmental Assessment (EA) is being sought for two alternatives: leaving the road as it is, or widening the road from its current 19-22-foot width to a width of 30 feet, including the improvement of all associated features and structures along the segment.
The “action” alternative also addresses shifts in the road’s alignment at Frying Pan Spring, Semi-Centennial Geyser and the curve just north of Grizzly Lake Trailhead. The assessment also identifies potential impacts to Yellowstone’s resources, visitor experience and park operations and outlines mitigation measures for the protection of geology, vegetation, wildlife, wetlands, hydrothermal features, historic structures and other park resources and values.
The EA and an electronic form to submit comments on the internet can be found online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yell. A hard copy or CD can also be requested by calling (307) 344-2017, or by writing to the Norris to Golden Gate Road Reconstruction EA, National Park Service, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.
Written comments may be submitted through the Web site, in person or by mail, and must be received or postmarked by midnight, June 13, 2011. Comments will not be accepted by phone, fax, or e-mail, and submitted responses may be made publicly available at any time.