- Associated Press - Sunday, May 21, 2017

CODY, Wyo. (AP) - Business owners in northwest Wyoming are concerned about losing customers because of proposed road construction in 2018 in Yellowstone National Park.

Road construction planned around Fishing Bridge inside the park next year could involve road closures that would affect the park’s East Entrance road, which connects Yellowstone to Cody.

“We’re concerned that the closings will adversely affect Cody business,” said Mark Westerling, president of the Cody Chamber of Commerce.

Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said the National Park Service intends not to have closures until after Oct. 15, 2018, when the busy summer tourist season comes to an end.

“We want the closings as late as possible to have the least impact on area businesses,” Wenk told members of the Cody Chamber of Commerce last week.

The proposed construction project involves rebuilding Fishing Bridge and Pelican Creek Bridge as well as 3.2 miles (5.1 kilometers) of road, The Powell Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2qxBnQd). The proposal is open for public comment until May 26.

Tina Hoebelheinrich, executive director of the Cody Chamber of Commerce, said she hopes to turn congestion at the South and West entrances into a positive for communities near the East Entrance, near Cody.

“We have a tremendous opportunity here due to congestion at the other gates,” she said. “The East Gate is a great option to avoid the lines.”

But road closures could turn visitors away. And the closing of Fishing Bridge essentially shuts the gateway to the rest of the park from the East Entrance.

Westerling has suggested to Wenk that closing the road at night for roadwork and then reopening the road during the day was an option that could address some of the concerns.

“Delays are part of construction and maintenance is needed. But long closures would be listed by sites that visitors use and would push them away from the East Entrance,” Westering said.

However, Wenk didn’t address the idea of night closures during his visit with chamber members.

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Information from: Powell (Wyo.) Tribune, http://www.powelltribune.com

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