Roundabout damage

A semi hauling a trailer plowed into the roundabout at Gros Ventre Junction on Thursday evening, heavily damaging the structure.

A Florida man who came in too hot approaching the Gros Ventre Junction roundabout structure on slick roads late last week has been cited and told he must appear in court.

Yonal Alexandre, a 39-year-old from Orlando, was estimated to be traveling at 35 mph when he entered the roundabout headed southbound around 11 p.m. Thursday. Instead of turning, the truck he drove went straight, resulting in snapped wooden rails and destroyed stone pillars in the middle of the recently completed Highway 89 crossing structure.

It’s unclear if anything in particular caused the crash, other than driving too fast for the conditions, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Matt Brackin said. Alcohol wasn’t a factor and Alexandre didn’t report being asleep. Visibility was also fine, he said.

“From everything that I saw in the crash report,” Brackin said, “there wasn’t anything that would have adversely affected visibility to see the signs or recognize that there’s something coming up in front of him.”

The Wyoming Highway Patrol, which headed the investigation, issued Alexandre a citation for speed too fast for the conditions. It’s a bondable ticket that carries an $80 fine.

Separately, Grand Teton National Park also cited Alexandre.

“We cited him for failure to maintain control,” spokeswoman Denise Germann said, “and we made it a mandatory appearance.”

Germann said the court date is “unknown.” She was unsure of the maximum penalty for the code of federal regulation allegedly violated.

Gros Ventre Junction, site of a $5.8 million redesign in 2018, has sustained serious damage. To help pay for repairs, Grand Teton is seeking funds through the System Unit Resource Protection Act, which can provide reimbursement or restitution for damage to park resources. Completing a damage assessment and coming up with a repair bill could take a full year, Germann said.

The crash is the second to damage the Gros Ventre Junction roundabout since the structure was completed a year and a half ago. The first crash, Brackin said, was a hit and run between a vehicle and one of the stone barriers circling the structure.

Brackin said people branding the roundabout unsafe are getting ahead of themselves.

“I don’t see the roundabouts being a safety issue by any stretch of the imagination,” Brackin said. “I think that it’s alleviated safety issues with traffic in general.

“This was a pretty generic accident, other than the damage that it caused,” he said. “I know it’s kind of a hot topic, because it’s a new roundabout.”

Germann also stood behind the safety of the structure. Changes to the Gros Ventre Junction design, she said, are not being considered at this point.

“The original design was with traffic safety highway individuals and the Federal Highway Administration,” she said. “We’ll do the assessment and go from there.”

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

(4) comments

Christopher Calloway

Did anyone not see this coming? Open highway- slick, tourists, semis....I mean it’s going to happen MANY more times. Signs, flashing lights, warnings, electric shocks....maybe that could help but it will still happen. Best thing to do is don’t build anything in the center...no pillars, no statues, just cheap breakable fencing and grass. Easily fixed and replaced. The roundy works and is a descent fix to the traffic issue there but it will continue to get nailed no matter what.

patty Thompson

I have to agree with Steven. Going through that roundabout in a regular size car is like threading a needle. There are ones this size in my town for neighborhood intersections. Hwy 89 needs to have two lanes going all the way around or be a much larger driving circle. The bike lane crossing is perplexing. With the bike tunnels at the Museum & Moose, I don’t understand why there wasn’t a tunnel added here. I can think of few places in town or the park where anyone needs to cross the main road on a bike. This is a major intersection. Clear signage is not really allowed in the park, and a lot of people don’t know what they’re doing in traffic circles, so it is a recipe for disaster.

Kara Eicholzer

Just a thought...the Moose-Wilson has several flashing speed signs that make it very clear you are going too fast. How difficult would it be to provide the same safety feature on each side of the highway as you are approaching the roundabout? Signage is NOT enough, as very few drivers ever expect to come across one after traveling 55-60mph on a highway. Seems like this would be a very inexpensive and helpful added feature that could save damage and perhaps lives.

Steven Kardas

Back in New Jersey we had a lot of experience with  roundabouts and nick named them  "circles of death" because they caused many accidents.  Drivers have to pay attention, something that is rare these days.  They are an old idea from the 1950's and have been all removed over the years. Replaced with modern intersections with traffic lights.  From my own observations the  Gros Ventre roundabout was designed way to small. Tractor trailers and very large Rv's barely can fit through that intersection and are forced to creep through, which was the intention of the traffic engineers to slow traffic down, but keep it moving.  It should have been built twice the diameter.  Putting stone pillars to crash into is a nice touch too. Very unsafe. Expect them to be destroyed often.....

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.