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Beartooth Pass contractor receives recognition from Montana governor

Beartooth Highway.jpg
Posted at 11:04 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-04 12:02:42-04

More than two weeks after the historic flooding, the Beartooth Pass remains closed on the Montana side.

Officials say it could be another week to 10 days before it's open.

Several spots along the Beartooth Highway have been damaged, and the contractor says any road damage can be repaired.

Gov. Greg Gianforte came out Friday to honor one contractor and for its work in Carbon County and also other parts of Montana.

Rock Creek flooding caused damage to asphalt in five places and to the slopes holding up the road in three places.

"When the water from the river got up above the riprap, just washed the road out," said Dean Rehbein, Riverside Contracting project superintendent. "So repairs any road can be repaired. Of course, cost is an issue."

Rehbein said a crew of six operators and nine truck drivers have been working on the Beartooth Highway, which could be fixed and reopened in the next couple of weeks.

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"The biggest one, there's a lot of depth to it," Rehbeing said about one of the damaged spots. "It's a pretty big cut. A lot of material was removed. That one can take a little bit of effort."

Workers have taken the riprap to fill in areas damaged by flooding and at other places in Montana, including Highway 89 to Gardiner.

Gianforte gave the Spirit Of Montana Commendation to Riverside Contracting, which is based in Billings and Missoula.

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"They worked long shifts right to the weekends to get the road in Paradise Valley opened back up," Gianforte said. "They rebuilt the road in Absarokee and here they're working on getting the Beartooth Pass open back up."

Repairing the Beartooth Highway will be important for people living and working in Red Lodge.

"This is the place that feeds our local economy," said Carbon County Commissioner Bill Bullock. "So the work getting done here and the improvements they're making in the repairs are just monumental and they're so appreciated."

"Our economy thrives on people having access to the Beartooth Pass," said Chief Tom Kuntz, Red Lodge Fire Rescue. "And every day that it's closed, you know makes it harder for people. And so the fact that they're working to get this done as quickly as possible, we're very grateful."

The governor says the Independence Day festivities can be good for those recovering from the flooding.

"Montanans are resilient," Gianforte said. "And celebrating the founding of this country on the fourth is a great time to remember just how blessed we are here in this country."