WEST GLACIER (AP)
Snowplows are scheduled to start cutting through drifts Monday, the start of annual work to open Glacier National Park’s Goingto- the-Sun Road for the summer. The 2007 opening may be the most complex on record. Washouts and accumulations of rocky debris from torrential rain late last year are among the reasons. In 2006 the road opened on June 23. In 2005 the date was May 22. This year’s opening is projected for July 1. Progress in clearing the highway is watched closely by businesses that rely on Glacier’s 2 million summer visitors. There are plans to install a temporary, steel bridge along a 103-foot-long stretch of road wiped out in the November storm. In just one day it dumped 8. 5 inches of rain on ground already soft from earlier precipitation. Then the snow came. Park officials estimate replacing the road and removing flood debris will cost $7 million. Repairing trail damage could cost an additional $1 million. As survey crews wait to see whether melting snow will take out any more of the road east of the Continental Divide, they have been getting bad news on the west side. “On Tuesday, we got word that one of the storm-damaged sections along upper McDonald Creek is experiencing further bank erosion,” park spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt said. “Bank stabilization had not been completed there last fall, and the bank is starting to slide further.” There also are new problems around the historic Logan Creek Bridge on the west side. Floodwaters did not go under the bridge but instead took out some of the road just above it. Crews cleared debris from the bridge area, but the creek has flowed over the repaired road, Vanderbilt said. “The bridge was cleared, but the creek bed was not cleared, so the creek has begun flooding out of its banks again,” she said. The temporary solution for the gaping hole in the road on the east side of the Divide is a two-lane bridge stored in the Rising Sun Campground west of St. Mary. A crew will install the bridge this spring, said John Schnaderbeck of the Federal Highway Administration. Having the bridge in place will allow a contractor to reach a site where the highway administration has determined a retaining wall about 400 feet long is necessary.