With Memorial Day Weekend officially kicking off the summer travel season, and road construction ramping up in Rocky Mountain National Park, you just might have to ride a shuttle when you visit some areas of the park this summer.
Much-needed repairs to the Bear Lake Road will create some traffic woes during the next two years as crews work to rebuild retaining walls, reroute one nearly mile-long stretch away from wetlands, and fix problems with the road in general. While access to Bear Lake won't be cut off, there will be times when you won't be able to drive your own vehicle to the lake but instead have to take the park's free shuttle bus if you want to go there.
Beginning May 29, the only way you'll be able to reach Bear Lake during the height of the day is via a shuttle as officials try to minimize traffic snarls during construction.
The road work began back in March. It affects the lower section of the Bear Lake Road, from the junction of Trail Ridge Road/Highway 36 to the Park & Ride – Glacier Basin Campground intersection, covering 5.1 miles. The work will be similar in scope and impacts as the first phase of reconstruction on Bear Lake Road that was completed in 2004, and took place on the upper 4.3-mile-section of road.
During the high season, from May 29, through October 9, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Bear Lake Road, approximately one mile west of Moraine Park Visitor Center to Bear Lake, will be accessible by free shuttle bus only, seven days a week. Private vehicles will be allowed both directions prior to 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Visitors in private vehicles, who make the 9 a.m. cutoff time, will be allowed to travel eastbound throughout the day.
The park’s three shuttle routes will be modified during the construction. The Bear Lake Route will run between Moraine Park Visitor Center and Bear Lake with stops at Hollowell Park, Park & Ride, Bierstadt Bus Stop, Glacier Gorge Trailhead and Bear Lake. The Moraine Park Route will run between the Moraine Park Visitor Center and the Fern Lake bus stop with stops at Moraine Park Campground, Cub Lake Trailhead and Fern Lake bus stop.
The first bus will depart from the Moraine Park Visitor Center at 7 a.m. and the last bus will leave at 7 p.m. The last bus of the day will leave Bear Lake and Fern Lake Trailheads at 7:30 p.m. Bear Lake Route buses will run every 15 minutes but may be delayed during periods of road construction. Moraine Park Route buses will run every 20 minutes.
The Hiker Shuttle Route will make stops at the Estes Park Fairgrounds Parking Lot, the Estes Park Visitor Center, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, and the Moraine Park Visitor Center where passengers will transfer to either the Bear Lake Route or the Moraine Park Route. The first bus will leave the Town of Estes Park Visitor Center at 6:30 a.m. and the last bus will leave the Moraine Park Visitor Center bound for Estes Park at 8 p.m. The Hiker Shuttle will run on an hourly schedule early and late in the day; switching to a half hour schedule from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Rocky Mountain National Park is approaching its centennial anniversary in 2015. Bear Lake Road was completed in 1928 and until 2003, no significant improvements were made. No major road work has taken place on the lower section for more than 80 years. When this project is complete, just prior to the park’s hundredth anniversary, it will conclude over 47 miles of critical improvements on park roads since 2003.
The Federal Highway Administration awarded a $23.4 million contract to American Civil Constructors and is administering this project on behalf of the National Park Service. American Civil Constructors is based in Littleton, Colorado. The overall cost of the project is $27.7 million.