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Teton Pass pathway hits hurdle

February 4, 2017 GMT

The 6.5-mile pathway snaking up the west side of Teton Pass recently hit a hiccup that will delay the first quarter-mile from the Idaho State line into Wyoming.

Although federal funding has been secured for the short segment, which would extend an existing Idaho pathway from Moose Creek to the Trail Creek campground, the application didn’t account for an underpass at the campground to move riders from the north side of the road to the south.

“WYDOT put a stipulation in the design that they were not comfortable with doing an at-grade crossing at Trail Creek campground,” Pathways Coordinator Brian Schilling told Teton County commissioners in their Jan. 23 meeting, “so they want to see an underpass.”

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The problem is, the federal funding — acquired through the Federal Lands Access Program — hadn’t planned for the cost of building an underpass.

“The original scope of work actually involved a few different options for that crossing,” said Keith Compton, Wyoming Department of Transportation District 3 engineer. “Given the type of traffic and quantity of the traffic that we have there … we just had safety concerns both for the users of the pathway and the traveling public, so we don’t want to see an at-grade crossing there.”

An at-grade crossing would funnel bike and pedestrian traffic across the highway.

“Our funding from the FLAP grant right now doesn’t have enough to build an underpass,” Schilling told the board.

Schilling said he hopes to reallocate Wyoming’s money, about a half-million dollars, to another part of the project, allowing Idaho to move forward with its part of the project to take the pathway from Moose Creek to the state line.

“They have funding,” Schilling told the Jackson Hole Daily. “We want their project to move forward, so we’re taking the Wyoming piece out of it for the time being.”

Wyoming’s money may instead be used for environmental study for the entire link from the state line to the summit of Teton Pass, and to pay for some planning and design along the stretch.

Preliminary plans for the larger segment has bikers traveling on the north side of the highway to the Trail Creek campground, where they would cross the highway and travel along the south side of the highway until reaching the Coal Creek parking lot. A second crossing would be built at the parking lot.

“There’s an already demonstrated need for an underpass there,” Schilling said, “just to get people off the road when they’re going backcountry skiing on the south side of the pass.”

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Teton County commissioners will have to approve of the pathways department applying for the funding. The issue is likely to come before the board in a few months.

Schilling is also considering applying for another FLAP grant, which would pay to build the first segment of the larger link — the state line to Coal Creek.

The Teton Pass Trail, also known as the Centennial Trail, is part of the 2007 Pathways Master Plan, which identifies pathway projects throughout the county. Schilling estimated the Centennial Trail will take more than a decade to complete, but eventually the segment will serve as a regional connection, he said.

“There’s a plan to create a Greater Yellowstone trail system,” Schilling said. “A lot of it is built, especially on this side. Now there’s an effort to link the missing segments up to West Yellowstone and beyond.

“This is a key segment, because it’s not very pleasurable riding up or down Teton Pass with vehicles,” Schilling said.