The Tribal Trail Connector takes another step forward as the county works to pin down what capital projects to prioritize in the coming years.
On Monday the Teton County Board of County Commissioners plans to meet to review two design options stakeholders settled on for the controversial road.
But longtime critics of the project are calling for it to be deprioritized.
“We are certain that the funds required for the TTC, if they are even available, would be much better spent on other, more pressing initiatives,” Geoff Gottlieb wrote in an email to commissioners, “including those which will ease the burden on our community of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Gottlieb, the president of the Responsible Growth Coalition, is a staunch opponent of the connector road. He argues the 2,600 feet of asphalt that would link the Tribal Trail neighborhoods to Highway 22, bypassing the “Y” intersection, will have adverse environmental impacts and put more cars on area roads.
The connector is supposed to provide redundancy, or multiple ways in or out of an area, cut back on vehicle miles traveled and reduce local trips though the “Y” intersection.
Four members of the Tribal Trail Connector stakeholder committee, who had asked electeds to pause the project, also sent a letter requesting that commissioners deem the project “nonessential” in budget talks.
“We feel this expenditure was a low priority from the start and that the funds could go to more pressing immediate needs of the community,” the group’s letter read.
During preliminary budget talks Wednesday, county commissioners also deemed the project “nonessential,” but at least one thought they might have jumped the gun.
“I think we got a little ahead of ourselves by saying it’s nonessential,” Commissioner Greg Epstein said, “because we hadn’t even seen the stakeholder group’s presentation on their alternatives. I want to get the information before we make the decision.”
At Monday’s workshop, staff are expected to present the two alternatives, largely for discussion purposes. A formal decision will come later, possibly at the commissioners’ May 19 or June 2 meeting, when the public will be able to weigh in.
Teton County Public Works cut $1 million for Tribal Trail planning from its 2021 budget request, as departments countywide scale back to adjust for COVID-19-induced shortfalls. If commissioners approve a connector design, those funds could be restored. Other funds from the Wyoming Department of Transportation may also be available.
But even if commissioners give the project the go ahead, how and when it will proceed remain uncertain.
“If the vote is that we want to move forward, then I guess the next question would be, ‘Do we continue to move forward now, or do we hit pause and then pick it up again at a later date?’ ” Director of Public Works Heather Overholser said during Wednesday’s meeting.
People can tune in to Monday’s meeting via Zoom with the meeting ID 938 1895 5631. Those looking to dial in over the phone can call 1-669-900-6833.