Pending internal approvals, the Wyoming Department of Transportation is set to reduce the speed limit on Teton Pass from 55 to 45 mph.
The proposed change is the result of a speed study that the Teton County Board of County Commissioners and Teton Backcountry Alliance requested from WYDOT in July 2020.
The impetus was concern about safety at the top of the pass where recreationists and motorists intersect, particularly in the winter when people park up high to ski.
WYDOT District Traffic Engineer Darin Kaufman said the speed study showed that people typically drive the upper elevations of the pass at lower speeds, and the department generally starts to set speed limits within 5 mph of how quickly 85% of people drive along a given byway.
But it also takes other factors into consideration. Kaufman said both applied on Teton Pass.
“People were driving that speed already, and also it’s a different environment,” he said. “The grade and the curves, they kind of control what’s going on regardless of anything else.”
Kaufman compared the pass to the portion of Highway 22 that stretches from Spring Gulch Road to Emily’s Pond. At the request of the county commission, WYDOT studied that byway earlier this year and initially recommended setting a year-round speed limit of 55 mph. It was previously 45 mph in the winter and 55 mph in the summer.
That stretch of 22, Kaufman said, is relatively straight and people tend to drive faster. But, after pushback from county residents and the county commission, WYDOT settled on a year-round 50 mph speed limit.
On Teton Pass people were generally driving slower than the posted 55 mph speed limit at the top of the pass, the study showed.
The fastest that 85% of drivers rounded the summit was 49 mph in the summer and 42 mph in the winter.
That and road conditions like the grade and curvature on Teton Pass gave WYDOT the data needed to lower the speed.
The 45 mph speed limit will stretch from the Coal Creek parking area on the west side of Teton Pass, to Old Pass Road on the east.
Commissioners sent the Transportation Department an appreciative letter earlier in August.
“The board believes that this speed reduction and improved pedestrian signage will aid in the improvement of motorist, pedestrian, bicyclist and wildlife safety,” commissioners wrote.
WYDOT also recommended sprucing up signage to increase safety and warn motorists of pedestrians in the area.
Kaufman said speed signs have not been replaced yet but should be sometime in September.