Teton County’s consultant has selected its own consultants for the design and public outreach for the Tribal Trail Connector.
Last spring county commissioners voted narrowly to contract the Wyoming Department of Transportation as the consultant to conduct design planning for Tribal Trail, a half-mile road that would link South Park Loop to Highway 22.
Then WYDOT decided to bid the work out rather than take on the project internally, county Engineering Manager Amy Ramage said. The state agency solicited proposals for private firms to bid on the project, received five responses and selected a plan from Morrison-Maierle Inc. for design, Jacobs Engineering Group for environmental documents and Strata for geotechnical work.
County engineering staffers were involved in the request for proposals process, Ramage said.
The winning proposal champions a “team” approach to planning for the controversial road, one that includes WYDOT, Teton County, the stakeholder group, landowners, wildlife advocates, neighborhood and pathway groups.
“A project like this requires community buy-in,” the proposal from Morrison-Maierle’s Wyoming Operations Manager Randy Bomar said. “The Wyoming Department of Transportation needs an experienced team with a proven track record of achieving consensus across the broad community of Jackson, Wyoming.”
Bomar listed several challenges associated with the project, including gaining the trust of the Jackson community by honoring the broad values of all parties, delivering a design that maintains the neighborhood feel of the connector, while serving as a multimodal link that enhances the broad community of Jackson and designing the intersection with Highway 22 “to handle heavy traffic volumes, provide safe access to the Teton Science School, facilitate commuters and the local neighborhood.”
The consultants said their experience on the 2014 study of Highways 22 and 390 and environmental studies for the Jackson South and Hoback Junction projects established trust and relationships with residents.
The proposal also touted the firms’ ability to deliver results on a “fast-track schedule.” WYDOT’s David Griffin said that means that, compared with WYDOT’s normal planning process, which can take two to four years, the Tribal Trail planning and design is expected to take 18 to 20 months.
The consultants must follow Teton County’s project charter process, which includes presentations of concept and final designs to the Board of County Commissioners for approval and up to 15 public meetings. WYDOT also requested that public outreach include “online open houses” and 3D visualization models.
“The public engagement part of this project is very important, and so having some experienced people that can navigate that process was an important part of the selection process,” Ramage said.
Ramage said the provision that the road design won’t be held to WYDOT’s own strict road standards and can incorporate more creativity than a typical state highway project is key to the project.
“The county is maintaining the flexibility to have input on the road standards,” she said.
The Tribal Trail Connector is listed as a capital project in the 2015 Integrated Transportation Plan and identified as a priority in the 2012 comprehensive plan. Its goals are to provide travel redundancy and improved multimodal connectivity. The most recent estimate predicted a cost of $6.8 million.
But the project faces steep opposition from some community members who fear it could negatively affect nearby school zones, neighborhoods and wildlife habitat. Others see the road as opening a Pandora’s Box to growth, wider roads and more development in the area.
Now that a consultant has been selected based on qualifications, the next step is for WYDOT to negotiate a cost for the work. Then, Ramage predicted, the first stakeholder group meeting will occur in the first quarter of 2019. By the end of January, Ramage said, Teton County’s long-awaited traffic modeling tool that allows for testing of various road network setups will be available for use as part of the planning process.
“The traffic model will be a key tool in analyzing various scenarios,” Ramage said.