What does the future of getting around Teton County look like? That’s exactly what local, state and federal officials are considering.
Traffic in and out of Jackson is only getting worse — particularly in the summer months — unless improvements are made. That’s according to a new roadway study of the Highway 22 & 390 corridors, which the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance commissioned.
Summer means a high influx of visitors, and residents know that traffic in and around Teton Pass gets congested where the roads get narrow.
The study found that one feasible solution may be increasing public transportation and allowing buses to use the shoulder to bypass traffic during heavy congestion times.
“You know the idea we are presenting is really thinking about a more holistic set of solutions that allows us to meet people’s travel needs and do so reliably but without continuous highway expansion,” said Thomas Brennan, with the national transportation consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard, who recently presented finding at public forums in Jackson and Wilson.
The study also looked at the possibility of adding lanes on Highway 22 but found that it cost billions of dollars and raises environmental concerns related to local ecology and wildlife.
Brennan also said expanding the roadway for more cars and trucks may not solve the bottleneck problem over time.
“Three to five years after we’ve spent a lot of money to expand the highway, we’ll often end up in the same situation and having the same conversations adding in an additional lane,” Brennan said.
Brennan said the study’s findings will be presented to Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), which is considering roadway improvements in the coming years.
Teton County was also one of more than 500 communities across the U.S. that recently received a chunk of nearly a billion dollars in federal funding to boost roadway safety. The funding is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was signed in 2021.
Teton County was the only municipality in Wyoming to get the money, which comes out to almost $500,000.
Teton County Pathways Coordinator Brian Schilling said that money, along with some matching funds, will go towards rethinking intersections and roads to reduce fatalities.
He said, across the country, many roadways were designed with cars and trucks in mind.
“The importance is placed on getting as many vehicles through an intersection as possible in the shortest amount of time, [which] doesn’t always generate the safest intersection or especially safe conditions for people outside of cars, pedestrians and bicyclists,” Schilling said.
A recent federal report also found the economic impact of traffic crashes nationwide was $340 billion in 2019 alone.
Schilling said for the next year Teton County will consider new crosswalks and signage and ask residents for input on a plan to get roadway deaths down to zero.
“[Our goal is] to make sure that every neighborhood and community is connected in a way that they can travel in any mode and feel safe doing so,” Schilling said
He said one area they will focus on in Jackson is what’s known at “the Y” where U.S. 191 intersects with Highway 22.
Getting around Jackson
At a recent public forum in Jackson on improving traffic on Highway 22 & 390, consultants presented ideas that promote new ways of travel in town.
Brennan said other mountain destinations like Park City, Utah and Breckinridge, Colorado have incentivized alternative modes of transportation like e-biking and park and ride systems to help residents avoid traffic congestion.
Brennan said other towns have also installed parking meters downtown.
“There’s multiple benefits,” Brennan said. “It encourages people to think about the need to make driving trips … And from the standpoint of local retailers, it can also be a very effective way to make sure there’s parking spaces available for customers.”
Brennan suggested that, as part of a region’s journey to alleviate traffic headaches, communities should create a coalition to help residents get involved.
The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance recently launched the Jackson Hole Passage Project, to help mobilize the community and build political support and funding for more formalized plans.
Tonight, Feb. 15, a public meeting is scheduled at Old Wilson Schoolhouse from 5 to 7 p.m. to examine community needs traveling the Teton Pass Corridor.
WYDOT, Teton County, the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) will present improvement ideas, which include recreational shuttles, wildlife crossings and avalanche sheds, along with potential costs.
A link to the FHA’s various proposals can be found here.
A year ago, the entities virtually met with residents, who shared their top priorities for Teton Pass, which related to safety, recreation and tractor-trailer truck usage.