Highway 89 construction

Construction continues recently along Highway 89 south of Jackson. The project between Hoback Junction and Jackson is expected to wrap up in 2020.

With the northern part of the South Highway 89 widening project slated to wrap up in June, the Wyoming Department of Transportation has awarded the next phase of widening, which carries a $67.4 million price tag.

Teton County also signed on to pay $1.7 million more for the adjacent pathway than was expected a couple years ago.

In 2017, WYDOT contracted Utah-based Wadsworth Construction Company for $33 million to complete the northern four miles of the highway widening project, from South Park Loop Road to about where Munger Mountain Elementary School sits. That section must be wrapped up by June, WYDOT Resident Engineer Bob Hammond said.

The next portion of the project — another four miles from Munger to Hoback Junction — was awarded last week to Oftedal Construction Inc., of Casper, for $67.4 million. That is 26% over the project’s budgeted cost of $53.3 million, according to WYDOT.

“We didn’t feel that any major changes could happen that would bring the cost down,” Hammond said. “What all the planners in Cheyenne will have to do is move some projects around, push them off a little bit, so that way there’s funding available to fund this project.”

The southern section must be completed by July 2022. While the final contract and schedule are still under review, Hammond suspects road users won’t see work begin until late summer or fall.

According to Pathways Coordinator Brian Schilling, Teton County years ago signed on to share costs of building a pathway alongside the new highway, with WYDOT covering only the first $250,000 toward the pathway. A 2017 estimate for the project put the county’s match at $928,820 for a $1.18 million project.

The high bids WYDOT received for the overall project mean Teton County’s pathway obligation increased to $2.6 million, as WYDOT’s $250,000 contribution stayed the same. Schilling said next year’s costs could be covered by leftover specific purpose excise tax funds, but up to $1 million will be needed in fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

“Those costs would probably span a couple of fiscal years. We don’t expect there to be a bill for $2.6 million that shows up next week,” Schilling said.

Teton County commissioners last week agreed to the hiked price, recognizing it’s a big commitment.

“If we commit to this now, we have to know we are definitely tying our hands in the future when it comes to all the other efforts we want to take on, whether that’s Stilson, whether that’s Parks and Rec,” Commissioner Mark Newcomb said.

Schilling noted that costs would only increase in the future.

“Even though it is a substantial sum of money, it is the best deal we’re going to get for constructing a pathway,” Schilling said.

Friends of Pathways Director Katharine Dowson urged support for completing the path.

“We’re looking at multiple tens of millions of dollars invested into the highway,” Dowson said. “We should consider investing in other modes of travel at a significantly less cost. It may feel big, but in the scheme of things, moving people around for that price is pennies.”

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063 or county@jhnewsandguide.com.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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