Casper endorses transportation plan, $917 million in project recommendations through 2048 - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Casper endorses transportation plan, $917 million in project recommendations through 2048

(Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — A new “Long Range Transportation Plan” for the Casper area includes $917 million in project recommendations through 2048.

The plan was prepared by the Casper Area Metropolitan Planning organization and is required if municipalities working with the MPO are interested in securing federal funding for transportation projects.

“Projects listed in the LRTP are eligible to be placed on the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) which is then evaluated and approved for state funding by the governor on the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP),” Casper Community Development Liz Becher explains in a memo.

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The Casper City Council passed a resolution during their Tuesday, Feb. 4 meeting to endorse the plan.

However, they asked that one section from the plan be amended. That request will be taken the the MPO for consideration.

Councilman Mike Huber took issue with an aspect of the plan which refers to the “East Belt Loop project” saying he had a “real serious objection” to language in the plan speaking to that project.

The plan states that the East Belt Loop project was moved to the lowest priority level among project recommendations due to “high fiscal cost” and due to objections from the community.

“The East Belt Loop project has been met with backlash from the City of Casper, Casper Area residents, and environmental advocates,” the plan reads. “From the City’s perspective, the East Belt Loop project is not reflective of the City’s long-term goals and policies as reflected in several adopted plans.”

“The City is concerned that the arterial is designed to facilitate traffic flow and relieve congestion rather than enhance connectivity within the Urban
Growth Boundary. The adopted Comprehensive Land Use Plan promotes a fine-grain street network, small blocks, and primarily residential neighborhoods with limited neighborhood-serving small commercial centers.

Huber said during the pre-meeting Tuesday that he thought it was inaccurate for the plan to describe the city as having a “backlash” against the project. He recommended the council ask that this section be either changed or removed.

Despite this objection, Huber said that he thought other elements of the plan were strong.

The description of the East Belt Loop project in the plan continues: “The recommended route alignment, which allows for just 18 intersections along the corridor, provides inadequate cross connections that would limit property access and alter the type of land uses that the City wishes to encourage in the area.”

“There is also concern that premature construction of the proposed East Belt Loop may result in premature development of the area. Services and amenities are currently centralized within the Urban Growth Boundary. Premature development southeast of Casper would impact the provision of services, which has financial implications for the City. Some have also questioned the projected regional growth and travel demand that is partly motivating this project; population growth within the region has remained stagnant following the Recession.”

The Casper Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and their consultant Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates put together the plan, which can be found in the council’s work packet.

The plan is meant to guide transportation infrastructure improvements in Casper, Evansville, Mills, Bar Nunn and Natrona County through 2048.

The final draft was discussed during the Casper City Council’s Tuesday, Jan. 14 meeting.

The consultants told the city council that they attempted to spread the recommended projects “equitably” across the community. The recommendations include near-term, medium-term and long-term priorities.

Were all the recommended projects to be implemented, the total cost is estimated at $917 million:

(Casper Area MPO)

The plan is called “Connecting Crossroads.” It will be an update to a plan completed in 2014.

“It is recommended that over half (57%) of available funds are used towards an Enhanced Asset Management Program that ensures the
maintenance and preservation of the existing and future transportation network,” the plan states. “From the remaining funding available, the Recommended Plan provides a list of 55 capital projects for construction at a cost of approximately $397 million through 2048.”

“The Recommended Plan projects are fiscally constrained, meaning that the expected costs for the projects do not exceed expected revenues for transportation investments over the planning horizon.”

The consultant added that workshops and public surveys were conducted to help guide the formation of the plan. The plan identifies a number of recommended transportation infrastructure improvements throughout the Casper area.

Some of those recommendations are intended to address safety concerns at intersections and streets prone to crashes.

Others are meant to address other transportation related issues. One example is a recommendation to convert Casper downtown one-way streets to two-way streets in order to benefit retail in the area.

The plan states that 97% of people in the area drive to work and 88% of people drive alone to work.

The plan identifies five goals for transportation improvement:

• Increase Transportation Options for All Modes
• Improve Safety and Health for All Residents
• Enhance the Region’s Distinct Character
• Support the Region’s Diversifying Economy
• Promote Affordable and Easy Mobility Solutions

“The Casper Area is growing, creating challenges for our current transportation system,” the plan states. “And our population is changing—the number of older adults is growing, and young people are driving less than their parents. People are asking for a wider range of mobility options, and they want safe connections that help them get to where they
need to go.”

“As we developed Connecting Crossroads, we learned about your vision for the future of the Casper Area and your ideas for solutions to help respond to these changes. We heard that Casper Area residents want safe, comfortable, and reliable ways to get around the region. For some that means better biking connections or safer walking conditions; for others, that means a reliable way to drive or an efficient trip to work and services on the bus.”

The plan identifies a total off 55 projects, ranging from mixed use paths to road projects. The consultant utilized a scoring model to rank the projects in terms of priority.

Those 55 projects include:

• 7 complete streets projects
• 20 multimodal projects
• 4 intersection improvements projects
• 20 roadway construction projects
• 4 bridge replacement projects

“The projects included in this list are all eligible for Federal, State, or County funds and there may be other funding sources that can be used in the future,” the plan states. “Recommended projects and maintenance spending include all committed projects identified in the Casper Area MPO FY 2020 – 2023 Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP).”

“Additional projects beyond those committed to 2023 are also included to address future year mobility needs and network preservation throughout the Casper Area. Together these projects are the blueprint we will follow to improve the Casper Area’s transportation system over the next three decades.”

A full list of the recommended projects are included in the draft plan.

If you would like to contact members of the Casper City Council regarding this or any other issue, here is their contact information:

Mayor Steve Freel (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz (Ward I, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Charlie Powell (Ward II, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Shawn Johnson (Ward II, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Ken Bates (Ward II, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Steve Cathey (Ward III, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Bob Hopkins (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Mike Huber (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Ray Pacheco (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Council members can also be reached by mail at: 200 N. David Street, 82601

If you would like to contact members in your specific ward, but don’t know which ward you are in, a map is available at the City of Casper’s website.