Teton Pass detour is expected to open by end of the week

Crews have been working 24/7 since the collapse of Teton Pass to reopen it. And they’re on track — with a detour set to “hopefully” open by Friday.
WYDOT director Daryn Westby stands with a crew near the new Teton Pass detour where reporters, commissioners, and WYDOT employees met to learn more about the construction. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

About half a START bus full of state and local legislators, WYDOT officials, and media members filed into seats in Wilson, donning orange vests and dark sunglasses.

Jovial jabber filled the aisles — like a bureaucratic field trip — as passengers were carried up the closed Teton Pass highway to get a look at the “Big Fill” landslide for themselves.

State legislators, county commissioners, and town councilors were among those sliding into seats on a START bus that left from the Stilson lot Tuesday morning. (Dante Filpula Ankney, KHOL)

At the active job site, crews worked to pave a section of the detour. Nearby WYDOT director Daryn Westby touted the successes of the response since the pass collapsed on June 8. 

“Flash forward almost three weeks and we’re going to hopefully have a detour open by the end of the week,” WYDOT director Daryn Westby said.

Westby congratulated those involved with the detour construction.

WYDOT director Daryn Westby said Evans Construction, the Jackson-based contractor that won a nearly half-million dollar contract from the state to build the detour, is an asset to the local community. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

“That’s why we put forward every manpower, brainpower, expertise to get this thing open as quick as possible,” Westby said.

But it’s not open just yet. It’s been over two weeks since the collapse of the roadway halted traffic along the popular highway corridor — impacting commuters, businesses, and tourists.

Scott Evans works with Evans Construction, which won a nearly half-million dollar contract for the detour work. He said there is political and community pressure on WYDOT to get the pass open — he and his crews can feel it.

“It’s like we’re torn apart as a family and you want to put that back together,” Evans said.

Crew members have been working 12-hour shifts daily to ensure the pass opens by the end of the week.

“They aren’t getting that decompression time so yeah it’s a little bit more taxing on them and I know they’re getting a little bit burnt out,” Evans said.

Evans Construction general manager Scott Evans said his largely male-dominated workforce decided to work through Father’s Day. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

The quick construction has led some community members and local officials to voice concerns about the safety of the detour and eventual rebuild – despite WYDOT’s repeated confidence in it.

Evans has heard the concerns, some he calls “armchair quarterbacks.” But he said the project has gone smoothly — he knows how it was built and he is confident in it.

“I would stake my reputation on that this fill that we put in will last longer than the fill that just fell,” Evans said.

Evans said he grew up in the area and he knows how crucial the Teton Pass highway is to communities on both sides of the pass. (Dante Filpula Ankney/KHOL)

WYDOT has had to dig into its budget to finish the detour — despite being awarded 6 million dollars in federal “quick release” emergency funds — with more expected. 

And they’ll continue to pay as construction on the rebuild is expected to begin in August — after the planning, design, and bid process finishes up. WYDOT officials have tentatively set a completion date for that project for November, before Winter storms hit.

Initial estimates put the detour and rebuild together will cost about $30 million. So as the detour readies, the rebuild looms.

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