Nearby landowners want Teton County to help improve the tricky intersection where Highway 22 meets Indian Springs Drive and Coyote Canyon Road, the connection to Teton Science School’s Jackson campus.
“We see the issue of the safety of our intersection as a community issue that isn’t just us — it affects our entire community,” David Schuler, Teton Science Schools’ director of asset management, told county commissioners during a July 20 workshop. “And we also recognize that it’s just one part of a very complex series of problems along the 22 corridor.”
Property owners contend that the intersection is dangerous — making a left turn out of either road during rush hour is tough. The intersection was also included in the Tribal Trail Connector stakeholder process because of how close it is to the proposed connector, and language in the Indian Springs development’s plat that could require its connection to Highway 22 to be closed if the connector is built.
The fate of the development’s connection to Highway 22 — if the Tribal Trail Connector is built but the private road does not connect to it — remains unclear, Director of Public Works Heather Overholser told the News&Guide. Envisioning how to make Indian Springs Road Drive meet up with the proposed Tribal Trail Connector has been difficult, she said. Ditto Coyote Canyon.
A fen on the south side of the highway, where an easement is set aside to link Indian Springs to a future connector, led staff to abandon that path. And the necessity of cutting into the hillside and building high retaining walls on the north for a frontage road that would join the connector with Coyote Canyon made that an unattractive option.
Stakeholders instead advanced two design alternatives for the Tribal Trail Connector and surrounding area that included an underpass connecting Indian Springs and Coyote Canyon, and right-turn-only access to the private roads. But those suggestions — there are no close-to-final designs for either the intersection or connector — would still require an Indian Springs-Highway 22 connection.
If and how an underpass would be funded, and what other amenities might be included in the intersection, remains to be seen.
Because the roads are private the discussion about what might happen there will happen mostly between Teton Science Schools, Indian Springs and the Wyoming Department of Transportation, which would ultimately construct improvements within the highway’s right of way. And, while potential improvements to the intersection are related to Tribal Trail because of the platting issue and their proximity, Overholser said they would really be a separate project.
So, as it stands, the county is not on the hook for funding any of the improvements to the intersection, but landowners are asking the county to stay engaged. They have argued that county participation could result in more from the intersection than a straightforward vehicular underpass and right-on, right-off access to the private roads.
“If the two parties end up coming up with some solution on their own, there might be little to no public benefit,” said Christine Watkins, the president of the Indian Springs Ranch board of directors. But, she added, she thought there are some “significant benefits” that are “worth at least putting some of the staff’s time into continuing to consider.”
One is the potential for doing double duty with the proposed underpass, allowing it to serve as a vehicular and wildlife crossing, though the details of what that would look like need to be ironed out.
Overholser said if the landowners were interested in that, and the county chose to get involved, Specific Purpose Excise Tax, or SPET, funds set aside for wildlife crossings could be used for the underpass, which would not replace the proposed overpass at Bar-Y.
“A mixed-use wildlife crossing is a mediocre solution for wildlife and should definitely not replace an overpass at Bar Y,” Overholser said, “but it could be a bonus.”
The other proposal on the table is working with START to set up a bus stop in Coyote Canyon targeted at Teton Science Schools employees. The majority of the workers, Schuler said, live at the schools’ Mad Dog Ranch property on Moose-Wilson Road but cannot use the bus stop by that campus to get to the main Jackson campus because there’s no connection in or near Coyote Canyon.
“If there was a solution that also allowed a START bus stop, it would be a win-win-win in for the entire community,” Schuler said, “where we’re taking a lot of cars off the road and providing alternative transportation for our staff and students.”
No decisions were reached during the workshop, but commissioners did direct staff to work with the landowners to muddle through the transportation quagmire at the intersection.