Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced earlier in the week that the National Park Service (NPS) has made final decisions regarding the next two phases of the Grand Teton National Park pathway system. These phases will extend the current network by 2.2 miles and improve safety for users of the existing segments.
In January 2013, Grand Teton worked with professional planners and industry experts to complete a separate Value Analysis (VA) for each of the next two phases; a VA involves a deliberative value-based, decision-making process. The two VAs were done to identify and select recommended approaches to expand Grand Teton's pathway system and improve safety for all pathway users accessing the Phase 2, or Highway 89, segment. Conclusions and final decisions on these next pathway phases were determined after a thorough review of options by a team that included Federal Highway Administration professionals, Wyoming Department of Transportation and Teton County engineers, as well as NPS staff with requisite knowledge and expertise.
Design is already underway for the next pathway segment that will extend the system along Highway 89 an additional 1.2 miles north from the tunnel at Moose Junction to Antelope Flats Road. The park has adopted the team's recommendation that this new pathway will cross the Ditch Creek ravine via a widening of the existing roadway fill. A short retaining wall will surround the Ditch Creek culvert and thus reduce impacts to the creek and surrounding riparian area. Improvements will also be made to the culvert to facilitate passage upstream for native fish. The VA identified this earthen fill crossing as the option with the most overall advantages, and the least cost of all alternatives considered. Construction of this segment is expected to begin the fall of 2014 and be completed by the fall of 2015, with an opening in late spring 2016.
A separate one-mile extension to the Grand Teton pathway system will parallel Sagebrush Drive west of the Gros Ventre Junction and link to a Teton County pathway along Spring Gulch Road. The connection between this new segment and the existing Highway 89 pathway will be made via two pathway crossings—one on Highway 89 and the other on the Gros Ventre Road—that will be integrated into a modern roundabout. The roundabout solution adopts the recommendation of the VA team that evaluated the best alternatives for safety improvements to the pathway system at Gros Ventre Junction.
The comprehensive VA process evaluated three alternatives that were identified by a September 2012 Bike Road Safety Audit (BRSA) of the Gros Ventre Junction area. The BRSA suggested three potential long-term strategies that would improve safety for pathway users at Gros Ventre Junction. The roundabout option was determined to be the most cost effective alternative, and the one that caused the least impact to wildlife and other natural resources. An extensive body of literature confirms that modern roundabouts are significantly safer than traffic lights or stop signs at busy intersections, and they improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular safety while also facilitating traffic flow and reducing vehicle speeds through such intersections. Other options reviewed, but rejected, included alternatives for possibly two tunnels: one under Highway 89 and a second under the Gros Ventre Road.
Interim safety improvements, including signs and striping, were completed at the Gros Ventre Junction this spring. Design of the Sagebrush Drive phase will begin this summer with construction likely in 2015, subject to availability of funds.
For a review of the BRSA, please click here.
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