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.