Transportation is a regional issue that touches every person in our valley. Whether you live in Teton County, commute from neighboring towns or are visiting, you will deal with significant transportation challenges our valley and region face.
Another busy summer is underway, and the frustration of traffic, parking and the availability of alternative travel choices are already on everyone’s minds.
What is the path forward? Our community worked for years to craft and adopt the Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan and Jackson/Teton County Integrated Transportation Plan, with goals to create a multimodal regional transportation system. Yet the recent County Indicator Report shows we are already exceeding key traffic volume benchmarks, while not completing the actions called for in the ITP to mitigate traffic growth.
We know it’s been challenging for the town and county to start the regional partnership envisioned. Nonetheless, our elected leaders must renew efforts to forge a diverse regional alliance of local, state, and federal agencies to improve coordination of transportation planning and provide a framework for coordinating on capital projects.
This starts with hiring qualified and empowered staff, and we hope the town and county will soon organize a Transportation Department led by a Transportation Director. Hiring a director-level position to lead this complex effort is a vital first step.
While that organizational effort takes shape, several items need immediate attention and action:
• Snake River Bridge and 390/22 Intersection: Our ITP says it’s imperative that electeds and locals weigh in on the design and development of this corridor. These long-term investments must be made with community values and vision at the forefront, yet WYDOT’s current process does not provide adequate public input opportunities.
• Future of Highway 22: How will the current design affect Stilson movability and the connection from Wilson to the “Y” intersection? Will we end up with another South Highway 89?
• Stilson Master Plan: Stilson is a key transit center, and several infrastructure improvements are needed to provide a hub connecting the West Bank and Idaho to downtown Jackson. Our community needs a holistic and collaborative understanding of how Stilson will help provide transportation solutions and fulfill other community needs.
• Downtown Wilson: This local downtown area is bustling with cars, bicyclists and pedestrians, sometimes bottlenecked into a small downtown area that does not have the infrastructure to support the movement of people safely. Creating a complete streets plan along Highway 22 is essential in ensuring that Wilson has a connected system to move people around safely and efficiently.
• Downtown parking: Two studies have shown that managed downtown parking is essential to incentivizing alternate transportation, freeing up spaces for customers and providing a source of revenue to mitigate impacts on our infrastructure. Managed parking should be implemented in downtown. It’s time to move forward with this.
• START: Our community needs additional service to the West Bank along with our regional communities of Alpine and Star Valley and Victor and Driggs, Idaho. Stable, reliable service will go a long way to getting more people on the bus, along with park and rides. Building a strong coalition of regional partners will be crucial to our future success.
What are you doing? Our electeds cannot be 100% responsible for transportation fixes in our community.
Each one of us has the ability to make a difference on transportation issues. This summer, please consider taking these steps to be part of the solution:
• Commit to riding your bike to work or an event at least six times before the first snow falls in October. Once a week equals 20% of trips to work, and it is healthy.
• Never ridden the START bus? Now is the time. Choose START when you are going to events or work. With free Wi-Fi on every bus, you can read, scroll through Instagram or watch your favorite show.
• Going eight or 10 blocks away? You can get there faster by walking or biking than by getting in your car. The lilacs are starting to bloom, so enjoy the flowers.
• You and your neighbor work in close proximity to one another? Carpool to help our community reduce single occupancy vehicles. Even if it is only one day a week, you are making a difference.
Now is the time to embrace change to support traffic solutions that help create a better future. With 5 million annual visitors to Grand Teton and Yellowstone and a growing residential and commuter population, these issues are only going to worsen. We need leadership, resources and community support if we are going to start making progress on our transportation goals. We invite everyone to rise to the challenge and get involved.