Jackson town councilors and Teton County commissioners expressed pleasure with the first update on the progress of 13 transportation-related projects funded largely through a federal grant.

The 2020 Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Grant, or BUILD Grant, is providing $20 million for the various projects, with local partners in both Wyoming and Idaho chipping in nearly $8.4 million to cover the remainder of the costs. The largest partners outside of the federal grant, dollar-wise, are Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which donated 5.7 acres valued at $3.1 million; Teton County, which is pitching in $2.92 million; the Idaho Transportation Department at just shy of $1.5 million; and the Town of Jackson, with a $554,075 match.

Bill Jones, a senior project manager with Jorgensen Associates, who were hired by Teton County for just over $3 million to help the county administer the grant, explained that the funding ratio is about 70% federal grant dollars to a 30% match by the six other partners. The amount each of the partners is required to match is based upon the scope and cost of the undertakings within their respective jurisdictions. For example, upon questioning from Jackson Town Councilor Jim Rooks, it was explained that Teton County, Idaho, is only kicking in $2,695 because the only project taking place under their purview is lane-striping at an approximate cost of $10,000.

The projects extend from Jackson to Driggs, Idaho.

Key among the 13 projects funded by the federal grant and local entities’ matches are a new Stilson Transit Center, which sits on land donated by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, new commuter and electric buses for the START Bus fleet, and pathways running from Wilson to the Snake River and over Teton Pass.

Teton County Director of Public Works Heather Overholser and Jones gave councilors and commissioners their first quarterly update last Monday at the elected bodies’ joint information meeting. Jones gave the primary presentation, with both he and Overholser answering questions throughout.

Though none of the projects are yet underway in terms of actual construction, Jones explained the timeline following the September 2020 grant award. In September of this year, there was a kickoff meeting with the Federal Transit Administration, and Jones also noted a great degree of coordination and cooperation between the entities has already taken place. His timeline extended out through 2027, by which time “we need to have construction complete and have requested and received reimbursement for all payments we’ve made to contractors by September of 2027,” Jones said.

In the more immediate term, “Into 2022, it’s going to be a very busy year from an administrative standpoint,” Jones said, detailing various approvals and agreements, including construction bids, that will be executed over the next year or so.

Jones also explained the various specifics of processes currently being undertaken, such as surveying and mapping and environmental field data gathering, among others. He did note, however, that with some aspects like concept plan development, “we’re trying to take those as far as we can, but we want to be prudent stewards of the resources of the town and the county and others,” and thus will wait for reimbursement before finalizing those aspects.

Among the many details of the various projects that were well-received by councilors and commissioners was a proposed widening of the wildlife corridor around the Stilson Transit Center. Jones said “we had a team of biologists look at the migration corridor; we looked at elk data as well as moose data ... and our recommendation from our team is a 140-foot corridor, which would increase what’s there now from the edge of the wildlife fence that WYDoT’s going to put up to the location of where we would like to vegetate for that wildlife corridor there.”

Jones did note that with construction and supply costs continuing to rise there could be cost increases from what is currently projected, but his candor on that aspect was appreciated by the electeds, who overwhelmingly praised the work Jorgensen Associates and Overholser have put in to this point.

“Thank you also for your honesty about program-wide cost increases. ... There must be an echo in our meetings lately because that’s come up many, many times, so I appreciate that honesty,” Rooks said, referring to cost overruns on a planned Rec Center expansion, among others.

Councilor Jonathan Schechter was also among the councilors and commissioners who expressed thanks to Jones and Overholser, saying that “it’s an incredibly impressive amount of work — the pace, the scale, the professionalism, the energy — and on behalf of the entire region, thank you so very much to the entire team.”

Video of the full meeting and all of the aspects discussed by Jones can be found online. Link directly to the meeting via the online version of this article at JHNewsAndGuide.com.

Jones also said that a website, TetonBuildGrant.com, is under construction with associated Facebook and Instagram accounts that will detail the projects and their progress in real time.

Contact Tim Woods at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

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(1) comment

Judd Grossman

"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot..."

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