Tribal Trails connector

The planned Tribal Trails connector will roughly follow the same trajectory as the existing pathway.

A majority of a Tribal Trail Connector stakeholder group endorsed pumping the brakes on planning for the controversial road, but their idea was dismissed Friday by the rest of the group.

Seven stakeholders on the 10-member group sent a letter to county officials detailing a new alternative option after feeling dissatisfied with the designs being considered.

“This new alternative continues the planning process but puts on hold the intersection at 22 and the last unbuilt 1,800 feet of Tribal Trail Road,” the letter said. “We are not saying ‘never,’ we are saying ‘not now.’ This project should be revisited when WYDOT, Teton County, and the town of Jackson have finalized plans for all of WY 22, 390 and its intersection with US 89, the north bridge and wildlife connectivity.”

Instead of building out the new half-mile connector between South Park Loop and Highway 22, the proposal includes a new underpass at the intersection of Highway 22 with Teton Science Schools and Indian Springs subdivision, a roundabout at South Park Loop and Boyles Hill, traffic calming measures, a weight limit on Tribal Trail Road and upgrades to the bike path to enable it to accommodate emergency vehicles.

Seven stakeholders signed on to the plan. Stakeholder Alex Muromcew said at a meeting Friday they agreed that the whole Teton County roadwork needs more study before investing further in a Tribal Trail Connector.

“My deep, underlying concern is we’re addressing a lot of problems piecemeal with significant price tags,” Muromcew said. “We can spend $10 million to come up with a solution here which could be obsolete in five to 10 years, depending on what’s going on with the bridge and the widening of 22 and a redo of the ‘Y.’ I don’t feel there’s a compelling need to do this right now as opposed to waiting and reevaluating some of the numbers based on everything else that’s going on.”

Stakeholder Dave Schofield, who also signed on, added: “We’re looking at a small section and we don’t know how it’s going to affect everything else, and that’s bothering me.”

Consultants, however, disagreed. Jim Clarke, who’s leading the project development through Jacobs Engineering, said the stakeholders’ suggestion should be dismissed. He said projects must be broken up into pieces for individual purposes, or “nothing will ever get done.”

“If we waited for all studies to be done, and all programmed or planned projects, we’d never get anything done,” Clarke said. “Our planning process shouldn’t be dictated by the future section of the widening of 22.”

Teton County Director of Public Works Heather Overholser agreed that while stakeholders are free to advance the suggested plan via public comment, it doesn’t meet the purpose and need for the project identified by the county commissioners: for example, to provide travel redundancy, improve emergency response and improve multimodal connections.

“As staff, we are being directed by the commission to come to them with a design alternative meeting the purpose and need,” Overholser said. “I, as staff, cannot go to the commission and bring a recommendation that doesn’t meet purpose and need.”

Overholser also introduced a similar option to build Tribal Trail Road with a right-on, right-off only intersection with Highway 22 as an “intermediary alternative” until the fate of Highway 22 is decided in the future.

WYDOT engineers viewed the seven stakeholders’ new option as being the same as a “no-build” recommendation.

Other stakeholders felt the seven stakeholders’ introduction of a new option was a violation of the outlined, public review process. Stakeholder Jeff Daugherty said the county has an obligation to provide route redundancy for the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.

“This was developed outside of the process in an ex parte fashion,” Daugherty said. “I felt like it undermined this group’s commitment to transparency to the public.”

Ultimately, the new option was dismissed from the stakeholder process. Nine other designs — from a roundabout at Tribal Trail Road and 22 to interchanges — continue to be evaluated by the stakeholder group.

“I’m a little shocked where we, as the stakeholders, come to you with a potential solution and when we sit down we see that it’s already been rejected,” Muromcew said.

A public meeting will be held to further narrow down the designs to select a preferred design to present to the Board of County Commissioners.

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.

(1) comment

Kathy Tompkins

The stakeholders’ alternative to put the brakes on until the whole picture is understood is the wisest, safest and most economically efficient way to proceed. To automatically say no to the stakeholders’ common-sense alternative, which has been overwhelmingly expressed and eluded to in public comment proves that there is no exit. WYDOT and the pro commercial growth powers that be have made clear the road will be built no matter what the public input is. The process is a sham.

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.