Despite commuter complaints that Teton County’s roads are especially packed this summer, traffic counts haven’t jumped significantly over the past few years.
“I can get over the pass and home faster after a heavy snowstorm than I can coming home right now,” Kristin Williamson wrote Aug. 10 in response to a Facebook inquiry polling readers on summer traffic. “This year has been the worst yet!”
“Traffic this year has been the worst I’ve seen since moving here,” Nicki Kinney wrote. “The backup starts on Broadway some days and traffic crawls until we pass Moose-Wilson on the drive home.”
Average daily traffic on Highway 22 west of town increased 3.2% over last year in June and 0.8% over last year in July, according to data from Wyoming Department of Transportation automatic vehicle counters.
Traffic on Highway 22 west of Highway 390 increased 2.3% over last year in June and 1.5% over last year in July. August figures are not yet available.
That’s not to say there isn’t some major traffic out there. According to a town and county report, in 2017 motor vehicles traveled more than 592 million miles within the county, surpassing the community’s goal to limit traffic to 560 million miles in 2035. Highway 22 traffic levels have surpassed the 20,000 average vehicles per day benchmark for constructing new road projects like the Tribal Trail Connector and additional lanes, per the county’s 2015 Integrated Transportation Plan.
The traffic levels had several readers, including Gary Mackenzie, clamoring for such projects, including an expansion of Highway 22 to four lanes. Mackenzie said his commute over Teton Pass should take an hour, depending on weather.
“My drive home can take 2-3 hours depending on the day,” he wrote.
Josh Ehresman called for alternate routes, a north bridge between the Jackson Hole Airport and Teton Village, five lanes between town and Wilson, and wildlife crossings. He said the infrastructure can’t keep up with hotels and tourists, a sentiment that Daniel Bradford echoed.
Bradford said it took him 20 minutes recently to make a turn onto Highway 22, with traffic backed up to the Shell gas station on Broadway.
“The infrastructure is not set up to handle this amount of traffic and there doesn’t seem to be any desire from the elected officials to fix it,” Bradford wrote. “They lobbied for the lodging tax, which just increases promotion for a town that is busting at the seams.”
WYDOT Resident Engineer Bob Hammond said Highway 22 regularly fails to meet “levels of service” standards and is well over its carrying capacity. The highway often operates at a “D” or even “F” level of service, he said.
“Once you get to that point and you can’t carry any more, you end up with what you have every night out there with traffic backed up and going very slow,” Hammond said. “You just can’t get any more traffic out there.”
Hammond said those slight increases are to be expected. According to a 2014 Planning and Environmental Linkage study conducted by WYDOT, the Highway 22 corridor traffic growth has averaged about 2% per year for 20 years. “Projections of socioeconomic activity indicate that growth trends will continue and exacerbate traffic congestion in the corridors,” the study said.
“Over time that adds up very quickly,” Hammond said. “You probably don’t notice it from year to year, but over a length of time, if you were to leave the valley for awhile and come back, you’d probably notice it over a several-year period.”