Gros Ventre bridge would link pathways
$850K sought to build crossing for pedestrians, cyclists on Highway 89.
By Bailey Schreiber, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
June 30, 2010
An August ballot measure will request $850,000 for a pedestrian bridge across the Gros Ventre River as part of a pathway that will ultimately connect Jackson and Jenny Lake.
The bridge would connect the southern segment of the pathway currently under construction along Highway 89, which is overseen by Teton County, and the northern segment, which is overseen by the National Park Service, said Brian Schilling, Jackson Hole Community Pathways director.
Excess funds, if any, would be used for maintenance.
The bridge is one of the final unfunded links in a regional system of pathways but one that is necessary, Schilling said.
To ask pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Highway 89 bridge would be irresponsible, he said.
“It is important that it is a separate bridge,” he said. “There needs to be some sort of separated, protected facility that connects the two pathway segments.”
Because the bridge is beyond national park boundaries, Teton County is responsible for its funding and construction.
Teton County received about $3 million from the Federal Transit Administration and $1 million from the Wyoming Department of Transportation; however, the county still does not have enough money to build the bridge, Schilling said.
SPET is not the last alternative Teton County has for funding. If voters defeat the measure, Pathways will turn to the Sarbanes Transit-in-Parks Program, Schilling said.
That federal program provided funding to the county in recent years to design and construct the pathway along the highway.
Still, because the program is not a guaranteed funding source and because pathway development has been popular with voters in the past, the department chose to seek funding from SPET first, Schilling said.
The bridge would complete a larger pedestrian and bike pathway system that will connect Jackson and Grand Teton National Park by the end of next summer.
“By the end of 2011, we will have a safe pathway connection between the town of Jackson and Jenny Lake, and that’s something people will travel specifically to do,” Schilling said. “It will be one of the most scenic and desirable rides and experiences for pedestrians and cyclists anywhere in the country. It will beneifit visitors and residents alike.”
Others echoed this sentiment.
The completed pathway would provide residents and visitors with the opportunity to enjoy the park and refuge and commute while reducing traffic, Friends of Pathways Director Tim Young said.
“If people are riding on the pathway, they’re certainly not driving their cars,” Young said. “Over 500 people work at the airport. A healthy portion of those folks will be able to commute by bike once summer season starts.”
Because the pathway is nestled between Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge, it will have specific rules and restrictions. No pets will be allowed on any pathway north of town. This is to prevent any conflict with wildlife, Shilling said.
Seasonal closures of the pathway will be enforced from Oct. 1 to April 30 to prevent potential conflicts with migrating or wintering elk on the refuge.