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Feds pass on funding North Fork Road paving study

Hungry Horse News | December 27, 2023 1:00 AM

Flathead County did not receive federal funding for an environmental analysis to look at paving a portion of the North Fork Road, county Public Works Director Dave Prunty confirmed last week.

The county sought Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) monies to perform a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of improving the road from just north of Glacier Rim to the Camas Road entrance to Glacier National Park earlier this year, but the analysis went unfunded.

The debate on whether to pave the road any further than it is now has been argued for decades.

The latest request for funding also included costs for paving about two miles because that was the most expensive treatment that might have occurred if the NEPA study said that was appropriate, Prunty noted in an email to the Hungry Horse News.

He said the funding could have also been for other treatments such as magnesium chloride, double chip seal or gravel.

The county will likely seek FLAP funding in the future, but the next round of applications for FLAP monies is two to three years out.

The upper North Fork Road did see work this year, including improving about 5.5 miles of the upper North Fork Road, Glacier Drive and the Blankenship Road.

The Blankenship Road and Glacier Drive saw millings from the Going-to-the-Sun Road reconstruction, which, in essence, gives the road a semi-paved surface.

The Blankenship Road was completed, but Glacier Drive will have to be finished next spring, as the weather took a turn in mid October. Crews replaced the culverts, but didn’t get the surface finished.

Glacier Drive is the road that runs from the Polebridge townsite to the Polebridge entrance to Glacier National Park.

The North Fork roads weren’t the only ones that weren’t finished.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road paving from North Lake McDonald Road to the foot of Lake McDonald wasn’t quite completed either. Another federal highways project, contractors were just a few miles short when the weather turned.

That, too, will have to be finished in the spring. The Sun Road will still be open to the lodge this winter for vehicles, however.

A $5.33 million contract was awarded to Brice Inc., of Alaska earlier this year for the North Fork work. The company also has offices in the lower 48 as well.

The bulk of the funding for the current North Fork and Blankenship projects comes from a Federal Lands Access Program grant, with matching funds from Flathead County, and other federal agencies.

It took years for it to come to fruition.