Part of Wyoming highway collapses in landslide, blocking crucial transit route (2024)

U.S.

By Emily Mae Czachor

/ CBS News

Part of Teton Pass, a crucial highway weaving through the mountains of western Wyoming, collapsed Saturday morning in a massive landslide that severed the primary transit route between two cities in the region. Officials said they expect the road will remain closed long-term, potentially jeopardizing almost half the workforce in and around the tourist hubs of Jackson Hole, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.

Crews were still examining the site on Monday to determine whether it would be possible to construct some kind of interim road for travelers in place of the collapsed section of the highway. The Wyoming Department of Transportation said that current evaluations from engineers and geologists suggested they would be able to build a temporary detour around the landslide. According to transportation officials, that detour could be open to the public as soon as a few weeks from now.

"Currently, WYDOT geologists and engineers are confident they can build a safe, temporary detour around the slide area using local fill material and paving two temporary lanes," the agency said in a social media post.

‼ IMPORTANT TETON PASS UPDATE ‼ Teton Pass road closure continues, interim detour plannedWYDOT Teton County closed access to Wyoming State Highway 22/ Teton Pass due to a landslide at milepost 12.8 and a mudslide at milepost 15. Commuters have been asked to detour around using US 26 through Swan Valley and then into the Snake River Canyon. WYDOT crews are currently evaluating the stability of the area and investigating adjacent areas for potential safety hazards. This is being considered an extended closure, and there currently is no estimated opening date. WYDOT crews have been working closely with other agencies and partners to secure the area and explore potential interim access, as well as long term reconstruction options. Currently, WYDOT geologists and engineers are confident they can build a safe, temporary detour around the slide area using local fill material and paving two temporary lanes. They are hoping to have a temporary detour open to the public, likely with some strict weight and width restrictions, in a few weeks. “I want to express my gratitude to WYDOT Director Westby and his entire team for their efforts to rapidly develop and implement a plan to get traffic moving over Teton Pass again as quickly as possible,” Governor Mark Gordon said.Geologists and engineers are evaluating the area and putting together a long term plan to rebuild the road. There is no current estimated timeline for that construction. WYDOT will be flying the area with a survey plane and doing some geological drilling in preparation for the reconstruction. WYDOT is working closely with the US Forest Service to provide access to recreation areas outside the slide area, despite the road closure. Agencies are collaborating to place signage on the road to allow users to access campsites unaffected by both the landslide at milepost 12.8 and the mudslide at milepost 15. Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National park remain open for visitors. Crews continue to manage the mudslide at milepost 15, and geologists and engineers are working on a plan to provide more drainage to the affected area by installing a box culvert. They are planning to do this work simultaneously with the temporary detour work at milepost 12.8. The work is dependent on availability of crews and materials, but WYDOT’s goal is to have this work completed when the temporary detour at 12.8 is ready for limited traffic. Governor Mark Gordon has issued an Executive Order declaring an emergency in response to both the mudslide at milepost 15 and the landslide at milepost 12.8. The declaration will help the state access additional resources from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to begin the substantial repairs required.WYDOT is thankful for the quick responsiveness and support from other government agencies, including the US Forest Service and the Idaho Transportation Department, which has allowed WYDOT to mobilize quickly with planning and repairs. "WYDOT’s response through this crisis demonstrates the commitment, passion and ingenuity of our crews,” said WYDOT director Darin Westby. “We certainly want to thank ​the Governor, the Federal Highway Administration, the Idaho Transportation Department, the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, Evans Construction and the US Forest Service​ for their quick response, teamwork and dependability in our time of need.”The video below shows the highway in 2023 compared to what it looked like June 8. (reporters, we now have a media kit available: https://www.dot.state.wy.us/home/news_info/media-kits.html )

Posted by WYOMING DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION on Monday, June 10, 2024

The update came as concerns mounted over the possible economic implications of the Teton Pass collapse. After it happened, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon declared a state of emergency in hopes that federal funding would allow the state to access the resources required to begin permanent repairs on the highway, which officials have said are "substantial."

The Teton County branch of the transportation department initiallyannouncedearly Saturday that the road at milepost 12.8 on Teton Pass had "catastrophically failed," and shared several images on social media that showed the extent of the damage. Officials said crews were trying to build a detour around the initial collapse when the landslide broke down further and effectively destroyed a whole section of the surrounding highway. No one was injured.

"WYDOT is now reviewing a long term solution and repairs, and more information on planning efforts will be available soon," the department said in their announcement. At the time, crews were also working to clear debris from another mudslide at the 15th mile mark on Teton Pass.

The roadway at milepost 12.8 on Teton Pass, has catastrophically failed, and a long term closure is expected. WYDOT...

Posted by WYDOT Teton County onSaturday, June 8, 2024

Carved into the Teton mountain range and running for about 17 miles, Teton Pass is the only direct route between Victor, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyoming. Despite being notoriously treacherous at certain times of year, and typically closed during those times because of weather-related safety concerns, the highway provides vital access to Teton County, which includes Jackson, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, for workers who commute there from eastern 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," said Darin Westby, the director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, in astatement after the collapse. "WYDOT engineers, surveyors and geologists mobilized quickly to try to maintain highway viability as long as possible, but catastrophic failure could not be avoided."

Westby said the Transportation Department was "decisively engaged on fixing the road and restoring connectivity to the Teton Valley."

In a study completed last January on the safety of the Teton Pass corridor, the Federal Highway Administration acknowledged that the highway "offers a critical connection for commuters and recreationists traveling from Victor, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyoming." The trip, from one end to the other, would ordinarily take around 30 minutes or so in a car, or slightly longer on public transit. Because of the steep mountain landscape, alternate routes send travelers on a lengthy detour that takes roughly three times as long and covers some 85 miles.

The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board said businesses in the city, as well as Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, would all remain open in a message shared on its website in the wake of the Teton Pass collapse. The board also recognized that closing the highway indefinitely will likely have consequences for workers living in Idaho and commuting to Teton County, who make up about 40% of the county's workforce, according to that message.

"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 travel and tourism board said. "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."

    In:
  • Idaho
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Wyoming

Emily Mae Czachor

Emily Mae Czachor is a reporter and news editor at CBSNews.com. She covers breaking news, often focusing on crime and extreme weather. Emily Mae has previously written for outlets including the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed and Newsweek.

Part of Wyoming highway collapses in landslide, blocking crucial transit route (2024)
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