WEST GLACIER - James Talcott Construction Inc. of Great Falls has been awarded a $4.2 million contract to build a transit center on the west side of the Glacier National Park.

The center will serve as one of two hubs for a shuttle system being created to mitigate delays and decrease the number of vehicles on Going-to-the-Sun Road while it is being repaired, park officials said last week.

The 4,200-square-foot Apgar Transit Center is part a long-range program to improve visitor services while reducing impacts of rehabilitation on Sun Road, which began this year, park spokeswoman Melissa Wilson said.

The center - scheduled for completion next summer - will be constructed at the "T" intersection near Apgar Village, about a mile from the entrance to the park at West Glacier.

It will serve as a hub for an optional shuttle system from Apgar to Logan Pass, which will begin service next year.

The system will use "sprinter" shuttles, or 12-passenger biodiesel buses, and stop at various locations along Sun Road, including several campgrounds, Wilson said.

The Apgar Transit Center will feature more than 130 parking spaces, 15 spots for recreational vehicles and information on the shuttle's various stops. No rangers will be stationed at the center.

On the east side of Glacier, the St. Mary visitor center will be expanded to include a second transit center, Wilson said. The contract for that work has not yet been awarded, and no timeline for construction has been set, Wilson said.

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Larger buses are likely to be used on the east half of Sun Road, Wilson said, because the stretch can accommodate bigger vehicles. The shuttle system on the east side of the park, from Logan Pass to St. Mary, will be phased in later.

The shuttle system is aimed at reducing the number of vehicles on Sun Road, which will remain open to two-way traffic during rehabilitation. It also is aimed at maintaining visitor use and access and minimizing impacts on the local and regional economies, Wilson said.

The Apgar Transit Center project will include the construction of trails from the transit center to Apgar Village and Apgar Campground, along with the removal of some "hazard" trees at the Logging Creek Campground, park officials said.

A "notice to proceed" is expected to be issued by the National Park Service in early August, with project completion expected by next summer.

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