Grand Teton National Park is hosting a public open house on Tuesday, July 11, at the National Museum of Wildlife Art regarding the construction of a roundabout on US Highway 26/89/191 at the busy Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive intersection in the southern area of the park.
Construction is anticipated to begin spring 2018. Anyone wanting to learn more about the roundabout, including construction plans, is invited to stop by the open house anytime between 5-6:30 p.m. on July 11. National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration representatives will be available.
The Gros Ventre intersection on US Hwy 26/89/191 has an average daily traffic volume of approximately 14,200 vehicles and almost 200 bicycle riders during the summer season. Safety concerns have been identified at this location, and the Federal Highway Administration indicates that this type of intersection has the greatest safety risks of any type of intersection in the country. It is a high-speed, two-lane rural road with an unsignalled intersection.
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, “The current situation at the Gros Ventre intersection is an extremely high-use area with some serious safety risks that need to be addressed.” These safety risks include:
- Cyclists crossing the highway with vehicles frequently exceeding the posted speed limit,
- Pathway users often not observing traffic controls,
- Poor sight distances, advanced warning signs and pavement markings,
- Safety risks with left turns in the intersection from Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive,
- Poor sight lines for vehicles turning or crossing the intersection from Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive,
- Visibility of pathways users to drivers is often obstructed by parked vehicles,
- Confusion of unfamiliar drivers at the intersection, and
- High presence of wildlife crossing the road.
The National Park Service, in partnership with Federal Highways, Wyoming Department of Transportation and Teton County, conducted safety audits and analyses, and evaluated several alternative solutions to the issue. A roundabout was determined to be the best safety improvement for pathway users, highway users and wildlife, as well as the best balance of safety, protection of scenic views and cost. Other considerations included tunnels under the highway and Gros Ventre Road, bridge underpass with additional pathway, pedestrian bridge, overpass or underpass with on and off ramps, stop light, and activated pedestrian crossing.
A roundabout is a circular roadway at an intersection designed to expedite the flow of vehicle traffic through an intersection and reduce accidents, as well as a reliable design to slow traffic through the area. It also provides an opportunity for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate the intersection safely and efficiently.
During construction, two-lane traffic will be open at all times on the highway, except in short instances for specific construction activities. Traffic delays are expected for the highway, Gros Ventre Road and Sagebrush Drive from early spring into the fall. Daytime delays will be maximum 15 minutes between 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 30 minutes maximum between 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. There will be some impacts to pathway users in early spring through mid-June. Access to the Gros Ventre Road from the highway will be rerouted via Antelope Flats Road for up to five days in early June to complete the temporary highway bypass. Additionally, the Gros Ventre Road will be closed after September 15, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for approximately two weeks to construct the roadway without vehicular traffic.
Vela said, “We understand that next year will include traffic impacts related to this project, as well as other area road projects associated with high water issues. We are coordinating with Teton County and others to work together to best minimize impacts and provide for safe access for all users.” Vela encourages those interested in the roundabout construction plan to visit the open house on July 11 to learn more.