WEST GLACIER, Mont. (AP) — Supporters of Glacier National Park and fans of its iconic red tour buses are upset that the park's new concessions contract calls for replacing half of the buses with alternative fuel vehicles by 2029.
"I believe it would be an absolute tragedy to eliminate any of the red buses from the fleet," said Bruce Austin, who served on the Red Bus Team that worked to refurbish the fleet from 1999 to 2002. "They should all be kept and refurbished. The public's interest in these vehicles is huge."
The transportation provision of the concession contract now out for bids calls for the complete rehabilitation of at least 15 buses at a cost of no less than $4.1 million by 2025, followed by the replacement of 18 others with alternative fuel vehicles by 2029, at a cost of at least $4.025 million.
The contract would run from January 2014 to December 2029. Glacier Park Inc. holds the current contract, which expires in December. GPI intends to submit another bid, President Cindy Ognjanov said.
John Hagen, president of the Glacier Park Foundation, recently wrote to Glacier Superintendent Kym Hall on behalf of the foundation's membership questioning the reasoning for the transportation requirements in the contract.
"The red bus fleet is a unique and historic resource, probably the oldest operational fleet in the world," Hagen wrote. "Replacing half the buses when all could be renovated at almost the same cost is inappropriate on its face."
Jan Knox, GNP's concession manager, said requiring the entire fleet to be restored could put the 16-year contract out of reach for potential bidders.
"We will try to get as many buses rehabilitated as possible, but requiring that a minimum of 15 buses be restored makes the contract financially viable for bidders," Knox said.