From Staff Reports
An ambitious plan to reconfigure the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park and revitalize downtown Gardiner, Mont. has received a big boost in the form of a $10.3 million federal grant.
The federal transportation funds will help pay to reconfigure the entry road, add new paved parking areas and improve pedestrian safety, according to a statement released Tuesday by the park’s public affairs office. Local matching funds and additional spending from the National Park Service will bring the total project budget to $12 million.
Plans for the Gardiner Gateway project also include a historic downtown walking tour, an amphitheater at Arch Park and a rebuilt Gardiner Depot that highlights the history of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which marketed its early hub to Yellowstone as the Gardiner Gateway.
Organizers hope to finish in time for the 100th anniversary of the Park Service in 2016.
Last summer, a project agreement was signed by 15 groups, ranging from Gardiner school and business groups to state tourism and commerce organizations to federal land management agencies.
The Park Service hopes to reduce delays and congestion at the Roosevelt Arch, where many motorists stop for photos, and at the North Gate, where busy summer traffic can leave long lines of visitors waiting to enter the park.
There have been instances where traffic has backed up more than a mile from the arch, stretching across the Yellowstone River. The Park Service plans to build a short new bypass road allowing visitors to skip the arch if they choose, as well as reconfigured approaches to better accommodate parking and picture-taking
“For over 130 years, visitors have traveled through Gardiner to enter the world’s first national park,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk. “We welcome working with our partners to enhance the experience of visiting our public lands.”
Park County Commissioner Marty Malone said the funding “will help enhance access to our public lands, it will also create jobs and improve our local economy.”
Engineering and design work is in progress, and construction is expected to start next year.
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