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Going to the Sun Road: How crews rehabilitate an engineering marvel

By Rebecca Vogt, KCFW Reporter, rvogt@kcfw.com
Published On: May 15 2013 10:31:23 PM MDT
Updated On: May 15 2013 10:32:28 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Millions of visitors travel up and down the Going to the Sun Road each year, but lately there's more than towering peaks and sweeping valley views - there's plenty of construction, too. Glacier's Landscape Architect Jack Gordon knows there's a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into reconstructing an 80 year old engineering marvel.

"Why did it take so long, cost so much money? There's a lot more that goes into that," said Gordon.

This isn't your average construction job. Workers face avalanches, tough terrain, and of course, weather.

"Generally about mid-June we've cleared most of the snow off the road in the alpine section and we're ready to start work," says Federal Highway Administration's Mike Baron. "Mid-October we start to see snowfall."

In 2012, crews tackled the tricky alpine section. Gordon told us workers had to get creative with the stone masonry to maintain the national historic landmark's integrity. They also installed new timber guardrails and retaining walls.

"Our slopes are so steep, once we lose that shoulder we have to chases it down and build it back up," said Baron.

This year construction will shift as teams focus on Avalanche Creek to Logan Pit on the west side and Siyeh Bend to Rising Sun on the east. And while visitors can expect delays of up to 40 minutes, it's not too hard to stop and enjoy the view. Park officials hope the project will be completed by 2016 to coincide with the National Park Service's centennial celebration.