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Wyoming’s Teton Pass Road Collapses, Governor Declares Emergency

A large portion of a mountain road collapsed in Wyoming near the Grand Tetons tourist destination, prompting the governor to declare an emergency, officials in the state confirmed on June 8.

Photos released by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) of the Teton Pass road show a chasm where the section of highway used to be.

“The roadway at milepost 12.8 on Teton Pass, has catastrophically failed, and a long-term closure is expected,” the state agency said in a statement, adding that officials “were working in the area to construct a detour around the damage, but the landslide continued to move, taking out the whole road.”

Etched into the mountain range, Teton Pass is the only road between Jackson, Wyoming, and Victor, Idaho, according to maps. The highway also appears to provide crucial access to the mountainous Teton County, which includes Yellowstone, Jackson, and the Grand Tetons from areas of Idaho.

“We understand this highway is a lifeline for commuters, deliveries, medical care access, and tourism, especially with limited alternatives and the summer season upon us,” WYDOT Director Darin Westby said in a statement over the weekend. “WYDOT engineers, surveyors, and geologists mobilized quickly to try to maintain highway viability as long as possible, but catastrophic failure could not be avoided.”

Mr. Westby said that his agency is currently onsite and is working to fix “the road and restoring connectivity to the Teton Valley.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how long it will take to reopen the road.

“WYDOT is now reviewing a long-term solution and repairs, and more information on planning efforts will be available soon,” WYDOT’s statement said, adding that a mudslide about two miles away on Teton Pass “breached the roadway with mud and debris, overwhelming the channeled drainage ditch and culvert.”

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, signed an executive order declaring an emergency on June 8 in response to the highway collapse. His office said it would allow the state to access more resources from the federal government to start repair work.

“We are closely monitoring this ongoing situation, and Wyoming Department of Transportation personnel are working diligently to develop a long-term solution to rebuild this critical roadway,” the governor said. “I recognize the significant impacts this closure has to Teton County residents, regional commuters and the local economy.”

His declaration stipulates that “efforts to reduce further damage must begin immediately” because “current conditions affecting highway integrity and structural stability continue to deteriorate,” according to a news release. The road closure also “endangers the health, safety, economy, and resources of residents of Wyoming,” the declaration added.

The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board issued a statement saying that local businesses as well as the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks would remain open amid the closure and repair work. However, it noted that the incident and long-term closure will affect workers in the area.

“Although businesses will do their best to support employees and commuters, and will work to remain open and maintain normal operating hours and services, it is expected that the workforce will be affected,” the board said in a statement on its website. “As a community, we ask visitors and locals to exercise patience and understanding if you experience longer than normal wait times or interruptions in services.”

A study published in January 2023 on the road by the Federal Highway Administration noted that the Teton Pass highway “offers a critical connection for commuters and recreationists traveling from Victor, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyoming,” and is “characterized by steep mountainous topography with severe weather conditions in winter months, which requires constant avalanche monitoring and maintenance” by the state.

The Teton Pass Highway also is near multiple federal areas such as the Caribou–Targhee and Bridger Teton national forests.

“The corridor also serves as a critical commuter route and facilitates the transport of goods and services that are lifelines to the growing regional economies in Wyoming and Idaho,” the U.S. highway agency’s report said. “Recreational uses often complicate WYDOT’s mission of keeping the road safe and clear for travelers.”

READ 10 COMMENTS
  • JP says:

    A dozen Mexicans can fix this by lunch.

  • Donna says:

    Wow, was just planning trip East last night and looking to go through there as have never been. Maybe by August will have something fixed! Have sped across the nation twice with no sightseeing and really want to do some this time!

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