Teton County officials expressed cautious optimism this week about their chances of being awarded a $28 million federal transportation grant.
“I just want to say we’re very encouraged and very excited about where that’s sitting, and hopefully we get good news this month,” START Director Darren Brugman told the Teton County Board of County Commissioners during its Monday voucher meeting.
Funds would come from the 2020 BUILD — or Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development — Transportation Discretionary Grant program, a pool of money doled out by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In collaboration with the town of Jackson, Teton County, Idaho, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and others in the area, Teton County applied to the federal agency in May.
Since the program is for a matching grant, local partners would be on the hook for about $7 million if federal funds come through — maybe more.
Teton County Director of Public Works Heather Overholser said Monday that the county had received an email from BUILD asking for confirmation that the partners could support an additional local match.
“This is not a confirmation of any sort of grant award by any means,” Overholser said, “but we’re hopeful and by September 15 we should know if we are recipients of the BUILD grant.”
The Trump administration deemed rural areas a priority for the 2020 program, pledging to spend 50% of the $1 billion in this year’s BUILD coffers in less-populated parts of the country. With its multistate, multicounty application and private-public partnership, officials and consultants felt positively about Teton County’s chances.
“I do feel like we have a really strong application here,” David Foster of consulting firm Alta Planning and Design told the Jackson Hole News&Guide in May. The county hired the firm to help prepare its application.
If approved, funding will support a number of projects on both sides of Teton Pass, including a Stilson transit center (estimated to cost $8.7 million), upgrading park-and-ride facilities in Driggs, Idaho (for just under $1 million) and adding four commuter buses (around $2.5 million) and two electric buses ($1.8 million) to the START bus fleet.
Other parts of the plan included construction of a pathway over Teton Pass ($5 million), building a Wilson-to-Stilson pathway ($1.5 million) and extending the pathway in Driggs to the airport ($325,000).
City of Driggs Community Development Director Doug Self said in May that the project list might look a bit like the “kitchen sink” because there are a lot of smaller moving parts, but he and others said the grant proposal’s components are all related.
“We’re trying to make that corridor — Idaho 33/Wyoming 22 — function a little more seamlessly,” he said.
The idea is to take cars off the road, cut greenhouse gases and improve efficiency, he said, “by making transit an attractive viable mode of transportation and making pathways more viable.”