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Teton Pass on track to reopen Friday

VICTOR, Idaho (KIFI) - Three cities are eagerly awaiting a temporary detour that will send traffic back over the Teton Pass, and the residents of Driggs, Victor, and Jackson might get their wish as early as this Friday.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation has worked non-stop the last three weeks to reopen the Teton Pass, finally laying pavement on a new road Tuesday morning.

WYDOT director Darin Westby calls their progress the incredible result of hundreds of years of combined experience.

"We feel confident with everything that has been done that it will be a safe, passable road," Director Westby told reporters at the site of the project.

Concern for safety runs deep in the teton area after the landslide earlier this June.

Earlier this month, Jackson town councilwoman Jessica Chambers wrote a three page editorial saying WYDOT was moving too quickly.

For a complete copy of the editorial, click HERE.

When asked if she still had concerns, Chambers reaffirmed her previous anxieties.

"I know that trust wants to be reestablished and I'm all for that," said Chambers. "I appreciate everything everyone's doing. Just, I don't want anyone to get hurt. I don't want anything to be impacted for a longer term."

Chambers believes, "there's a lot of rush to get the pass back open for the workers commuting and for the tourists that were coming from Idaho."

About 20% of the town of Jackson's work force commutes from Idaho every day. In return, the cities of Driggs and Victor benefit from the big crowds drawn to Jackson during prime tourist season.

After the closure, Victor alone is losing about $600,000 a day according to Mayor Will Frohlich. Mayors from all three cities say they were inspired by how the work has progressed quickly and safely.

"I feel really confident, reassured by listening to these guys today and their teams and seeing how well both the state of Wyoming and Idaho put together," said Frolich.

The Wyoming department of transportation assures travelers they are continuing to test and monitor the the area to ensure safety.

Chief engineering geologist James Dahill told reporters the elements that led to the landslide were a perfect storm. The department has set up instruments in the "Big Fill Slide" area to track the groundwater levels and shifts in the foundation in the future.

"Groundwater appear to be the contributing factor here," said Dahill. "And so we'll be monitoring the groundwater going forward."

Project manager and engineer Bob Hammond says the temporary detour should be stable for travelers to pass through without restriction.

"There's nothing about this detour that would limit anything other than we want people to slow down," said Hammond. "We have some steeper curves, more sharp curves."

"We are the experts," said Director Wesby. "That's what we do for a living. And so we have the appropriate people doing the right thing at the right time. And obviously it's it's working and we're about ready to open this thing up."

Once the temporary detour is complete, wydot will continue with designs and construction of more permanent repairs to the original road. WYDOT engineers hope to complete that work before winter.

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


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