Four out of five candidates for the county commission support the Tribal Trail Connector, the long-debated stretch of road that would connect the Indian Trails neighborhood to Highway 22 on what’s imagined as a low-speed neighborhood road.
Proponents of the connector say it’s necessary to add redundancy, multiple routes in and out of an area, to the county’s transportation network and a byway that would reduce traffic through the “Y” intersection in town. Critics say it could encourage more people to drive and is premature when so many other improvements are being considered for the Highway 22 corridor.
If elected, commission candidates will likely vote three times on the connector before it is approved, joining three members of the board who have already made their opinions heard on the issue.
Commissioners Mark Barron and Greg Epstein supported the connector in a June 2 vote. Commissioner Luther Propst did not.
Christian Beckwith, a climber and the founder of SHIFT Jackson Hole, running as a Republican, is the lone candidate opposing the road.
“What I’m concerned about is that we have not exhausted all our options to address our traffic challenges before we make a decision about that connector,” he said.
He advocates for more public transit lanes, subsidized transit for employees and residents, and congestion pricing as possible alternatives before building the road.
Teton County Board of County Commissioners Chairwoman Natalia D. Macker and Greg Epstein, both Democrats, have voted for the connector in the past and stuck with their previous positions in News&Guide interviews.
“I generally support the direction we’re headed,” Macker said. “If there was a big left turn and there was a super highway, I wouldn’t be supportive of that.”
Two design alternatives emerged during the first stage of the process: one with a traffic signal where the connector would meet Highway 22 and another with an interchange.
Staff is working on preliminary designs and an environmental assessment for the project, which will precede another stakeholder meeting, public workshop and commission vote.
Epstein repeated Macker’s commitment to the process. He said he believes figuring out how Tribal Trail will interact with the rest of Highway 22 is the “bigger question.”
“Long term, we need to be thinking about how Highway 22 is going to function,” Epstein said, adding that he supports the road going to four lanes, with two reserved for HOV lanes.
Teton Toys owner Wes Gardner, running as an independent, said during the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance’s July 16 “speed dating session” that he felt the process had resulted in a proposal for an appropriate road for the area. He highlighted the proposed 25 mph speed limit and forthcoming environmental assessment.
“The idea here is that it’s going to be done in a responsible way, and I support that,” he said.
Peter Long, who runs a local marketing consultancy and is running as a Republican, framed his support as an issue of supporting working families.
“Time stuck in traffic is an additional childcare cost, it’s time away from family, it’s a public safety issue, it’s a liability,” he told the News&Guide. “Our current road capacity isn’t sufficient to meet the community’s needs, especially our growing needs.”