After getting a first look at nine possible designs for the controversial Tribal Trail Connector, a stakeholder group didn’t rule any out but did flag some potential dealbreakers.

The first issue is a Wyoming Department of Transportation standard requiring access roads along Highway 22 to be at least 2,600 feet apart. The existing Indian Springs Drive access is only 1,200 feet from the proposed Tribal Trail Connector.

“That needs to be figured out with WYDOT, whether or not they would allow any sort of access point within that 1,200 feet of space,” said Heather Overholser, Teton County’s public works director.

If WYDOT requires the Indian Springs Drive access to be abandoned — to make way for the Tribal Trail connector — the Indian Springs Homeowners Association could be on the hook for building a new link between the subdivision and the Tribal Trail Connector.

Building that new link is further complicated by a new wetlands study showing that it would cross a valuable wetlands, including a “fen,” a marshy area that floods.

Overholser said it’s questionable whether the county can build or permit the road across the wetlands.

During a July 25 meeting, stakeholders debated whether impacts to the wetlands would be a “fatal flaw” for some of the road designs that include a connector between Indian Springs and Tribal Trail. Some said impacts to the wetlands are unacceptable, while others discussed work-arounds.

“It’s not irresolvable,” stakeholder Scott Pierson said. “That doesn’t mean it’s a preferred alternative, but it’s not a fatal flaw.”

Overholser said the project team will investigate these issues and bring answers and recommendations back to the stakeholder group for more evaluation.

The next steps are to host another public meeting and drill down into designs, weighing costs and criteria.

Engineers at Morrison Maierle prepared the nine initial designs. All nine alternatives presented — from a roundabout at Tribal Trail and Highway 22 to various versions of underpasses beneath the highway — were found to meet the general “purpose and need” of the project, meaning they provide travel redundancy, reduce vehicle miles travelled, reduce local trips through the “Y” intersection and improve emergency response.

Consultant Jim Clarke said the number of designs needs to be whittled down before a more detailed analysis.

“The intent is this is a fairly high-level screening,” Clarke said. “We don’t have all the data, but we can make reasonable assumptions. It’s really to move ahead maybe with a fewer set of alternatives we can study in greater detail.”

A “no build” alternative will also continue to be considered.

“There are a couple different checkpoints along the way where the county commissioners could say, ‘No, we prefer the no action,’” Clarke said. “It’s always on the table.”

Stakeholders will also soon have a chance to study the results of a “microsimulation model” consultants at Cambridge Systematics are preparing. The model will predict outcomes for small changes to roadway design, like changing the speed limit or adding a left-turn lane.

A higher-level modeling analysis from Cambridge previously found that a Tribal Trail Connector, with a 35 mph speed limit, would see 3,400 vehicles a day, according to the model’s test. The parallel route on Highway 22 would see 2,300 fewer vehicles each day.

“What that really showed us is that the bulk of traffic on the Tribal Trail extension is coming from local traffic, traffic in the specific neighborhood,” Cambridge consultant Sean McAtee said.

Several stakeholders asked Cambridge to model what would happen if more drivers from south of town routed through South Park Loop and Tribal Trail rather than going through the “Y,” an analysis consultants will bring back.

“I’m not comfortable with an assumption that if you build Tribal Trail you would not get an increase in traffic from people coming up from the south,” stakeholder Alex Muromcew said.

Engineers also presented a few options for updated intersections at Tribal Trail Road and South Park Loop, like a four-way stop (rather than the existing two-way stop) and a roundabout. And in a “visioning exercise,” stakeholders dreamed up ideas for what could be a part of an ideal connector road, like public art on an underpass, a water bottle filling station along the pathway or plaques with historical information about the area.

The next Tribal Trail meeting is not yet scheduled as consultants continue to conduct more research on the flagged issues.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063 or county@jhnewsandguide.com.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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