WYDOT crews working from the East Entrance met National Park Service snow removal crews Wednesday in Yellowstone National Park. (WYDOT)
(Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.) – Wyoming Department of Transportation and National Park Service road-opening crews met each other at 11 a.m. Wednesday about 15 miles inside the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park.
The rendezvous occurred Wednesday about halfway between the East Gate of Yellowstone and Fishing Bridge. It’s 29 miles from the East Gate to Fishing Bridge.
“We are very pleased to meet National Park Service maintenance workers today,” said Robin Nichols, WYDOT area maintenance supervisor in Basin. “We met their crew and started widening the area we had already plowed toward the East Gate. Our plan is to move our equipment out of the area today, and we will probably do some limited cleanup work in the area tomorrow morning.”
National Park Service crews had moved about 9 miles toward Yellowstone’s East Gate last week, and the Park Service crews re-mobilized to the area this week for the final snow removal push to WYDOT’s crew.
The rendezvous concluded WYDOT’s 11-day push from Yellowstone’s East Gate toward Fishing Bridge with its workers, bulldozer, snowblowers and snowplows. Park Service plows will take over and the East Gate to Yellowstone will open on schedule, May 3rd, barring unforeseen weather.
WYDOT’s assistance was enlisted in helping open the Yellowstone roads after National Park Service officials announced they would begin their plowing efforts two weeks later than originally scheduled due to federal budget cuts, delaying the opening of the park.
WYDOT’s effort to open the roadway from the East Gate of Yellowstone to Fishing Bridge began April 1.
WYDOT crews working on the South Entrance highway in Yellowstone National Park as seen from the cab of a rotary snowplow. (WYDOT)
Plowing was paid for by the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, the City of Cody, Park County and many private donors. WYDOT finished early and under budget according to the Department of Transportation. WYDOT is also working to open the South Entrance to the Park from Jackson by May 10th.
WYDOT Foreman on the South Entrance project, Bobby Johnston, reported Wednesday that a few inches of snow fell Tuesday night but it had not impacted operations. However, one of the rotary plows is down and colder temperatures has made the snow pack harder. Despite that, crews managed to move 1.2 miles on Wednesday. The South Entrance crews report snow depth at 7.5 feet with a layer of ice on the roadway at 4 inches thick.
“When we thought the federal sequestration was going to shut the public out of Yellowstone and slow down tourism in our gateway communities Wyoming came together and solved the problem,” Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said Wednesday. “The two crews have had great support in Park and Teton Counties. I thank them and everyone in Cody and Jackson who have rallied to make it possible for Wyoming to welcome the world to America’s first national park again this spring.”
Governor Mead also thanked Yellowstone officials for being willing to work with Wyoming and the gateway communities to accomplish this task.