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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Beartooth Highway repairs likely costly

Associated Press

RED LODGE, Mont. – Repairing stretches of the scenic Beartooth Highway damaged or destroyed by mudslides will cost about $20 million, with no estimate on when the work might be completed, officials told a town meeting Tuesday.

The highway is a route to Yellowstone National Park’s northeast entrance that winds over 10,940-foot Beartooth Pass. The late journalist Charles Kuralt called it “the most beautiful roadway in America.”

But it is more than the scenery to merchants in Red Lodge, who rely on the business of tourists traveling the highway each summer. It is closed by snow for half the year.

Mudslides caused by heavy rains and snowmelt in early May buried portions of U.S. 212, while rushing water undercut the pavement in other areas, said Charity Watt Levis, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Transportation.

Transportation Director Jim Lynch said about a 20-mile section of road is affected, with 13 areas impacted by slides, in some cases piled with tons of material. He said there are some areas where the road is damaged and others in which it is destroyed.

“We almost need to build our way into the project,” Lynch said.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., estimated repairs would cost $20 million, but he told the meeting he was confident that federal emergency highway money would be available for the project.

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