Yellowstone River bridge replacement at Tower

The National Park Service is taking steps to relocate a major bridge spanning the Yellowstone River at Tower about 500 feet south of its current location.

“This project will maintain safe visitor access from the park’s Northeast Entrance since the bridge is part of the only road corridor in the park that is open year-round and plowed in the winter,” Yellowstone officials announced in a statement. “Built in the early 1960s, the concrete deck, sidewalks, and parapets have deteriorated.”

By aligning the bridge farther south, Yellowstone National Park would trim 1,500 feet of road surface from the Northeast Entrance Road. A 1,175-foot-long, 176-foot-high bridge that would be built in 2022 would skirt wetlands, enabling the park to restore wet meadows that are adjacent to the current 60-year-old bridge and road corridor.

Those plans are outlined in an environmental assessment that Yellowstone publicized last week. Two other options are contemplated: the customary “no-action” alternative, and a different plan for the Yellowstone River bridge that would move the structure north instead into an area where the topography would enable a much shorter bridge.

Both options that would replace the bridge would widen the road surface from 24 feet to 30 feet. Between 1 and 1.5 miles of road from Tower Junction to the Yellowstone River Picnic Area would also be widened to a 30-foot width, and the picnic area would be reconfigured and expanded.

The construction schedule is contingent on funding, but plans are to have the project wrapped up by 2024. Traffic delays aren’t yet clear, and could range from no delays to 30-minute delays with occasional two- to four-hour delays.

Comments are due by March 15. Go online at ParkPlanning.NPS.gov/yrb to submit comments and to find related documents.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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