You can expect one more season of major road construction in the Bear Lake area of Rocky Mountain National Park, but this should be the end of the project that began back in 2003.
Last year major road work began on the lower section of Bear Lake Road in the national park. While much work was completed in 2012, much remains to be done on this road that is one of the most popular in the park for its scenery and recreational access.
Weather permitting, this project will be completed by late summer 2013. Beginning in mid-March through May 24, visitors traveling on weekdays past the Big Thompson Bridge on Bear Lake Road may experience up to two 30-minute delays in each direction.
Weekdays: On weekdays from May 28, through July 19, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Bear Lake Road, approximately one mile southwest of Moraine Park Visitor Center to Bear Lake, will be accessible by free shuttle bus only. Private vehicles will be allowed both directions prior to 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
On weekdays, visitors in private vehicles who make the 9 a.m. cutoff time will be allowed to leave throughout the day. All visitors, in private vehicles or shuttle buses, should expect at least two 20-minute delays both directions through the construction area. There will be no construction delays between Park & Ride and Bear Lake. There may be night closures during the construction. Night closures will be announced at least two weeks prior to occurring and will only occur on weeknights.
Weekends: Private vehicles will be allowed through all day on weekends. Although private vehicles will be allowed to travel on weekends through the construction area, shuttle buses will also be running. Visitors may experience some delays on weekends.
The park’s three shuttle routes will be modified again this summer 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 Park-n-Ride, the Estes Park Visitor Center, the park’s Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and 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 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. On July 20, the transfer point for park shuttles will move from Moraine Park Visitor Center back to the park’s Park & Ride facility.
Glacier Basin Campground will be closed this summer. Numerous pull-off areas may be closed at times during the construction. Visitors should expect congestion and very limited parking at Moraine Park Visitor Center. Visitors should also expect congestion and limited parking at the popular picnic and angler area in lower Moraine Park, north of the Big Thompson River.
Visitors who plan to go to the Bear Lake area on weekdays will have easier access if they plan ahead, hike early or hike late, and carpool. Visitors who are unable to make the 9 a.m. cutoff time may experience significant delays in transit and wait times at shuttle stops and may want to explore other areas of Rocky Mountain National Park.
All trailheads along the Bear Lake Corridor, the Park & Ride, Moraine Park Visitor Center and Beaver Meadows Visitor Center have limited parking spaces available. For those visitors who want to access the Bear Lake area on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., the best option will be to park in Estes Park at the parking lot near the Fairgrounds or the Estes Park Visitor Center and take the Hiker Shuttle to Rocky Mountain National Park.
This major project began in 2012, and is taking place on 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 is similar in scope and impacts as the first phase of reconstruction completed on Bear Lake Road in 2004, which took place on the upper 4.3 mile section of road.
This project involves construction of significant retaining walls to improve safety and drainage. In addition, a 0.9-mile section is being rerouted away from Glacier Creek, in order to prevent impacts to wetlands and riparian habitat and reduce costs. Structural deficiencies will be corrected in the roadway and inadequate parking and pullout design will be improved. This project will widen the road and improve the road surface to better accommodate park shuttle buses. Safety associated with winter snow removal will be enhanced by the wider road.
Rocky Mountain 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.
Information on the Bear Lake Road Reconstruction Project is available at www.nps.gov/romo, the park’s recorded road status line (970) 586-1222 or through the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.