On October 8, 2004, the upper 4.3 miles of Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park under reconstruction since 2003, reopened to private vehicles. Bear Lake Road is one of the most popular scenic roads in Rocky Mountain National Park and provides year-round visitor access to a variety of wonderful recreational opportunities. The Bear Lake Road Reconstruction project began in 2003.
Bear Lake Road was completed in 1928 and no significant improvements were made for 75 years. The project improved the road surface and widened the road two feet to accommodate park shuttle buses. The project also corrected structural deficiencies in the roadway and improved inadequate parking and pullout design. The road is open year-round, so the wider road will help make snow removal operations safer.
The shuttle bus operations have ended for the season and will begin again near Memorial Day. The slope work along the upper corridor will take time. Furrows of topsoil combined with scattered logs and boulders create micro-habitats for native plants by preventing erosion. In 5 to 10 years, roadside slopes should be revegetated. Ribbon cutting ceremony, l-r: Park Engineer Joe Arnold, Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker, Senator Wayne Allard, Estes Park Mayor John Baudek, Federal Highway Administration Larry Smith, Chris Krumweide Kiewit Western, Park Ranger Janice Pauley.
According to Superintendent Vaughn Baker, "We appreciated people's patience through this major project. The project went relatively smoothly considering the logistics and magnitude of the reconstruction. Visitors, shuttle bus drivers, park staff and volunteers were extremely flexible in dealing with this road reconstruction. We are pleased with the end result and are proud of our partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, contractor Kiewit Western and our shuttle bus contractor Rocky Mountain Transit Management Inc."
Road construction along the corridor cost approximately $8.2 million. The project was funded by the Federal Lands Highway Program, which is administered by the Federal Highway Administration. Entrance fees retained by the park also funded some aspects of the project. An additional $800,000 of National Park Service funds financed other projects along the road including the building of shuttle bus shelters, vault toilets and replacing the buildings at Bear Lake that were destroyed in an arson fire on January 1, 2002.