In light of the auto urban upzone proposal with almost 500 homes to be located along the west end of High School Road and South Park Loop Road on the Gill Ranch, I have a question: What happens when all this new traffic meets up with the through-traffic from south and west of town with the Tribal Trail Connector proposal and the Classical Academy? Stakeholders want to know, and the county transportation consultant has a good idea what will happen.
This is from a News&Guide article not too long ago: One of the biggest takeaways from the transportation data of the past few years, according to traffic consultant Jim Charlier, is that it would be futile to aim for a reduction in traffic.
“Essentially, he said, there is so much latent demand that there will always be more cars to fill any excess road space. Congestion is here to stay.
“Charlier sees the evidence of that in WYDOT’s widening of South Highway 89 to five lanes in recent years. As the thoroughfare has expanded, traffic there has increased drastically. In the same time the other major roads, which have remained the same, have seen little to no traffic growth.”
Even Charlier sums it up that if you build it, they will come.
There is no budget for protecting High School Road from Tribal Trail Connector impacts, and most likely none will be coming from the Gill upzone proposal. The schools and residential neighborhoods are in the impact area. Why are they not in the study zone on the Tribal Trail Charter website?
This is what we fear along High School Road: Piecemeal project proposals, including Tribal Trail, will force our neighborhoods and school zones to take the brunt of impacts. We cannot mitigate this after the damage is done.
The Tribal Trail cutoff should not be considered until Highway 22 is widened with a mass transit lane by the Wyoming Department of Transportation. (WYDOT has already said it will be widened, although they are fighting an extra lane). Then the following criteria should be met:
Urban development should be directed into town first before hopscotching the valley. It’s in the Comprehensive Plan. Follow it.
The Tribal Trail proposal should be preceded by an in-depth traffic impact study of South Park development. That should include impacts of the already-in-progress Classical Academy, the Gregory Lane realignment, the proposed Central Wyoming College campus, the possible high school field house and the proposal by the Gill family. Talk of also putting rodeo grounds there adds to the urgency of an all-inclusive study first.
After the town has exhausted its comp plan responsibility to house families, like using the Virginian property for housing, no South Park projects should be approved unless a road is planned and constructed first, parallel to High School Road, on the Gill and Lockhart properties, from South Park Loop Road to Highway 89. Any entrance and exit to and from development on Gill property should be restricted to using the new parallel road that shall accommodate traffic generated from the proposed 500 homes. There should be a buffer zone of open space installed for wildlife along High School Road, which should be treated as an academic campus road with major restrictions to commercial and cut-through traffic. Traffic of any future connector (after the widening of 22 and its recongestion) would be directed to this parallel road also.
The guesstimated $9 million to $15 million via taxpayer funding for Tribal Trail can then instead be used to construct the parallel road. Emergency road redundancy can be achieved with Indian Springs Drive, which connects Highway 22 with West Jackson. That alternative route offer, restricted to emergencies only, was recently stated again at the Tribal Trail meeting last week, by an Indian Springs representative. The second emergency route is the Tribal Trail bike path. With a gate installed at Route 22 on a single lane, the restricted emergency path can be upgraded at a tiny fraction of the Tribal Trail price tag.
The county must also pursue and obtain state legislation to restrict commercial truck traffic on South Park Loop Road and High School Road. It also must pursue and obtain the ability to work with and get GPS services to omit affected roads from its maps. Then if the Tribal Trail Connector is considered afterward, Spring Gulch Road and Tribal Trail won’t become the county’s de facto scenic bypass for tourists and corridor for commercial and industrial trucking.
County staff said they want to build Tribal Trail to handle START and school buses. That will be the invitation for commercial and industrial traffic. Drivers won’t mind putting up with a half-mile of road mitigation when most of South Park Loop Road and High School Road is still wide and straight enough to land a plane on. Speed limits are widely ignored. Spring Gulch Road residents are experiencing major impacts, though county officials promised they wouldn’t let it happen. These same broken promises are now being directed at our neighborhood and school zones with the Tribal Trail Charter.
If the county cannot achieve all the above, any major new South Park development, including Tribal Trail, should be off the table until the above common-sense strategies and “town as heart” comp plan goals can be achieved.