Work on a set of large, federally funded transportation projects is underway.
Jorgensen Associates, Inc. has been awarded a $3 million-plus contract to help Teton County administer a federal transportation grant that will allow federal and local agencies to spend $28 million on transportation projects.
The grant is the 2020 BUILD — or Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development — Transportation Discretionary Grant that Teton County, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the town of Jackson and other entities on both sides of Teton Pass were awarded in September. The feds, via the U.S. Department of Transportation, are set to cough up $20 million for the project. Local partners will chip in $8 million.
The goal of the grant is to better connect the highway corridor running from Jackson to Driggs, Idaho, with a slew of 13 projects that are largely focused on enhancing alternative forms of transportation. Among the projects that received funding are a new Stilson transit center, new commuter and electric buses for the START fleet, and pathways running from Wilson to the Snake River and over Teton Pass.
Teton County Director of Public Works Heather Overholser said in a staff report that the contract with Jorgensen was necessary because of the “complexity, level of required expertise and workload demand of administering and executing all components of the BUILD Grant.” Without hiring Jorgensen and its team of subconsultants, Overholser told the News&Guide that completing all the work under the BUILD Grant would not be possible.
“We do not have the capacity, nor do we have the expertise,” she said.
Included in that work is completing reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act prior to September 2022, the deadline for the federal government to provide the county and its partners the funds they were awarded.
Tim Young, the executive director of Wyoming Pathways who pushed for the BUILD Grant submission last fall, praised the Public Works department’s decision to hire Jorgensen.
“I’m really happy to be here and see this a major step in what I believe is the largest transportation grant ever awarded in Wyoming to a county or city government,” Young told the Teton County Board of County Commissioners during their June 21 voucher meeting.
The County Commission approved the contract that day, and the Jackson Town Council did so a day later. The town and county and the other partners also signed a letter of agreement authorizing the county to hire Jorgensen on behalf of the partners and to charge the firm for their share of the cost.
The agreement should lead to the county spending $2.1 million and the town spending roughly $500,000 in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1. Other partners are set to provide the balance of the $3.2 million fee, though Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is set to contribute $0 towards the total. Overholser said that is because the resort has already contributed the land for the Stilson transit center, which has been valued in the millions. And, when some kinks are worked out in regards to master planning the West Bank parking lot, the resort could pay roughly $90,000 for that effort.
As it stands, the document breaks the work into four tasks, organized under work orders, or legal documents that fall under the scope of the master agreement. Those include administering and managing the grant, managing individual projects approved under the grant, engaging the public and completing various real estate work.
Jorgensen’s list of subcontractors includes a number of local firms.
Among them are Agrostis, Inc., a Jackson-based landscape architecture and land planning consultancy; Biota Research, a local environmental consultant; Harmony Design and Engineering, a Driggs-based civil engineering firm; and Three Elephant Public Relations, a Jackson-based public relations firm.
Overholser said Three Elephant will help the county on the public engagement efforts for each project.
Alta Planning and Design, which consulted on the original BUILD grant submission, is also on team. Ditto LSC Transportation Consultants, consultants that helped draft START’s new route plan.
Master planning for the Stilson area was not included in the work orders associated with the Jorgensen contract. That dialogue is ongoing between Teton County and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Commissioners Mark Newcomb and Mark Barron wondered how that would play into the larger project.
Overholser said the resort had verbally committed to paying for the Stilson planning initiative aside from the transit center, but that staff would bring another work order for that project to the County Commission later.
The outstanding issue, according to Overholser and Abigail Moore, a deputy county attorney in the civil division, is agreeing how to handle the parking displaced by the construction of the transit center.
Overholser was confident the team assembled could complete the work required for the complex project by 2022.
“It’s a lot of work, but we will get it done,” she said. “We have the right people on the team and they’re already moving forward.”