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Rocky Mountain National Park Officials Looking At Rebuilding Section Of Bear Lake Road


Rocky Mountain National Park officials are mulling a significant rebuild of a section of the Bear Lake Road. NPS photo.

Negotiating parts of Rocky Mountain National Park could get a bit tricky later this year and into next as officials are planning to rebuild a 5-mile section of the Bear Lake Road.

Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker says funding has been secured for the second phase of the Bear Lake Road reconstruction. The work would take place from the intersection of the Park & Ride and Glacier Basin Campground to the junction with Trail Ridge Road.

The work could get under way as soon as late this fall or early in the winter, according to a release from the park. The work would be similar in scope and impacts as the first phase of Bear Lake Road. That was completed back in 2004 and took place on the upper 4.3-mile section of road.

The second phase now being contemplated would involve significant retaining wall work to accommodate much-needed safety and drainage improvements, park officials said. In addition, a 0.9-mile section would be rerouted away from Glacier Creek so as to prevent impacts to wetlands and riparian habitat and minimize costs.

“We recognize that work in the narrow road corridor will be difficult and have been cooperating closely with the Federal Highway Administration to structure the contract to minimize disruptions to visitors during the busy summer season," Superintendent Baker said.

Among the work options being considered:  

* Night road closures from mid-October to before the Memorial Day weekend, seven days a week, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Bear Lake Road above the Big Thompson River bridge;

* In addition to night closures, during winter and early spring months, full day road closures above Big Thompson River bridge on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (no road access to Bear Lake on those three weekdays during the winter and early spring);

* Closure of Glacier Basin Campground during 2012 to allow safe contractor staging to minimize traffic conflicts and to allow night work on the road;

* Summer night closures of the road above the Big Thompson River bridge from 10:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., including weekends;

* Allow work seven days a week, except that the road would be fully open during holiday weekends;

* Delays of up to 40 minutes should be expected when the road is open to vehicles.

Bear Lake Road was completed in 1928 and until 2003, no significant improvements were made for 75 years. The project will improve the road surface and widen the road 2 feet to accommodate park shuttle buses. The project also will correct structural deficiencies in the roadway. The road is normally open year-round, so the wider road will help make snow removal operations safer.

This major project will be a challenge and details of visitor access on Bear Lake Road during the work are still being determined and will be announced at a later date, park officials said.

The ability to accomplish as much work as possible during the slower off-season months might help lessen disruptions during the peak season. When this project is complete, it will conclude over 47 miles of critical improvements on Bear Lake Road and Trail Ridge Road since 2003.

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