Yellowstone National Park Receives Funding to Replace Yellowstone River Bridge
Yellowstone National Park recently awarded an approximately $118 million construction contract to replace the structurally deficient Yellowstone River Bridge on the Northeast Entrance Road near Tower Junction. Funded by the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), this project will preserve year-round public access to and from the park’s Northeast Entrance and communities of Silver Gate and Cooke City, Montana.
“As a vital piece of the only road corridor in the park that is plowed for winter use, the Yellowstone River Bridge provides visitors and communities with all-season opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the world’s first national park,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “We are grateful for the bipartisan GAOA support that is providing funding necessary to complete large-scale infrastructure upgrades in national parks to improve safety and the visitor experience.”
A new 1,285-foot-long, 175-foot-high steel girder bridge upstream will replace the existing 604-foot-long bridge, built in 1963. Additionally, GAOA funding will help construct approximately one mile of new road to line up with the replacement bridge location. New pullouts, paved parking areas, and dedicated pedestrian route across the new bridge will increase access to trails, fishing, and viewpoints. Construction will also enlarge the popular Yellowstone River Picnic Area to accommodate increased visitor use. Once complete, the existing road segment and bridge will be removed, and the area rehabilitated.
“This partnership between the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service, funded by the Great American Outdoors Act, will make Yellowstone National Park — an icon of the American outdoors — more accessible for millions of visitors who come to experience the geysers, canyons, rivers, and mountain ranges every year,” said Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt. “That’s not only good for families enjoying the great American outdoors — it’s critical for the economies of local communities neighboring the park.”
“We greatly appreciate the support in getting this major project funded,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly. “This has been one of our highest deferred maintenance priorities for years and will help ensure safe visitor and community access within the northeast corridor.”
The project is scheduled to begin summer 2023 and will be completed fall 2026. Automobile traffic will use the existing bridge while the new bridge is under construction. Occasional traffic delays will be short. Once complete, the existing road segment and bridge will be removed, and the area will be rehabilitated. Wetlands bisected by the existing road segment will be re-established and the Lost Creek drainage currently occupied by the road segment will be restored to its original alignment.
The Federal Highway Administration awarded the construction contract to HK Contractors, INC of Idaho Falls, Idaho. This project will reduce the park’s deferred maintenance and repair needs associated with this facility by approximately $39 million. In 2022, Yellowstone reported an estimated $1 billion in deferred maintenance and repairs, more than half of which is related to park roads.
Infrastructure funding from GAOA and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is part of a concerted effort to address the extensive deferred maintenance and repair backlog in national parks. Supported by revenue from energy development, GAOA’s Legacy Restoration Fund provides up to $1.3 billion per year for five years to the National Park Service to make significant enhancements in national parks to ensure their preservation and provide opportunities for recreation, education, and enjoyment for current and future visitors.