Eastbound trailers will be outlawed on Teton Pass starting Tuesday, a month earlier than usual due to safety concerns along the steep grade.
Violators risk a $435 fine, the Wyoming Department of Transportation warned.
“Our concerns lie mostly with the eastbound traffic on the east side of the pass, given the steep grade, topography and accident history,” WYDOT District Engineer Keith Compton said in a statement.
Though the scheduled seasonal closure typically starts Nov. 15, WYDOT decided to shut down the pass to eastbound trailer traffic a month earlier. The decision comes after the Teton Pass vehicle arrestor — meant to safely capture out-of-control vehicles heading into Wilson — failed to stop a pickup pulling a trailer loaded with logs Sept. 10. The arrestor has been out of commission since the accident, which remains under investigation.
The early closure is an unexpected hiccup this fall for certain local businesses like WorldCast Anglers. President Mike Dawes said it will pose a challenge for fishing businesses that operate on both sides of the pass. For example, a guide taking clients on the South Fork one day and the Snake River the next day will have to drive a boat trailer around the pass through Swan Valley, Idaho, and Alpine. The added mileage will be a burden, Dawes said.
“I get it, but an 18-wheeler’s a little different from a raft or a drift boat, especially since it’s, you know, local people trying to support their livelihood,” Dawes said.
On Sept. 30, with the arrestor closed, an out-of-control potato truck departing from Sugar City, Idaho, plowed into a storage shed near the base of Teton Pass after its brakes failed. The truck was 17,000 pounds over the weight limit, a violation that carries a $655 fine, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lieutenant Matt Brackin said.
The weight limit for Teton Pass is 60,000 pounds year-round. Charges against driver Jackson Altema for the weight violation are pending, Brackin said.
A runaway truck ramp a mile up from the arrestor remains open. Barring weather closures, westbound vehicles can travel with trailers through Nov. 15.