crosstown traffic: so hard to get through to you

By Jim Stanford on June 12, 2013

Tags: ,

Gridlock along Broadway on Monday. It took four cycles of the light for westbound traffic to get through this intersection.

RV blocking both lanes of traffic? Check. Truck pulling into the intersection illegally? Check. Timid drivers not using both lanes before merging? Check.

All manner of poor motorist behavior was on display Monday along Broadway, as reconstruction of the five-way continues to cause gridlock downtown.

So much for the rosy optimism of April. With tourists pouring into Jackson Hole and being funneled through the only major east-west roadway, the congestion is some of the worst residents have seen.

How I came to be stuck in the jam was a mix of poor timing, naivete and a pressing list of errands in west Jackson too cumbersome for a bike and backpack. As I recounted for today’s News&Guide, I had avoided driving across town during business hours for three weeks, doing my grocery shopping at night and relying on bike as much as possible.

Snow King Avenue wasn’t much better. Rebecca Huntington, savvily using the bike lane, snapped this photo later Monday afternoon.

I knew there had been some congestion along Snow King Avenue, but I figured perhaps Broadway, at 2:15 p.m., wouldn’t be too bad. Haha! Awful. I was not only annoyed but embarrassed to be adding to the mess.

Unsuspecting tourists have little choice but to endure the traffic. Spring Gulch Road is an option for heading to and from the parks, and Snow King Avenue provides some relief (crews soon will be directing traffic from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.). But the takeaway lesson for locals is: DO NOT DRIVE.

There is a larger issue at play here, and that’s the lack of any long-range transportation planning by the community. We can’t keep routing every vehicle through the Town Square and Broadway, nor can the Moose-Wilson Road sustain a heavy volume. The five-way construction is temporary, but summertime traffic is a nightmare every year. A million or more tourists show up in vehicles. Pathways, bike routes and START bus will only get us so far.


Posted under Economy, Politics, Town Government

47 Comments so far

  1. Brandon June 12, 2013 4:40 pm

    It’s bad but not THAT bad. Perhaps you have to live in LA to appreciate the real deal. If you’re in a hurry, or have a deadline, or are making multiple trips through the congestion, then it’s going to be a major hassle. Most of us aren’t doing that.

    WYDOT and the Town really didn’t think through the possible issues beforehand and how to solve them. A 24/7 work week, as was done with the intersection & road reconstruction near Casper’s Eastridge mall, is just one idea that would have been appropriate.

    The whole merging issue is WYDOT trying to blame drivers instead of admitting that they didn’t have a clue – sort of like when they started using stop lights with yellow arrows and caused more accidents & close calls than ever before.

  2. Chuck June 12, 2013 5:32 pm

    The project should have been fast tracked simply because the last thing that’s good for Jackson’s economy is to remind visitors of all the things they want to leave behind while on vacation.

    When Broadway is packed with cars the Chamber may be all smiles but I’m not sure that’s the image we need to project going forward. Moab used to be a sleepy town. I avoid it now.

  3. skip June 12, 2013 6:55 pm

    Heaven forbid an ambulance needs to go to St. John’s at 5 PM.

  4. Other Chuck June 13, 2013 8:41 am

    I commute from Drictor and I have to agree with Bandon. I have not experienced to much of a hassle with the construction zone, unless I need to turn left then it’s a bit of a pain. I just expect a little bit of a delay. Though I only pass through the area at 8 & 5. I agree 24/7 would have been a great idea to limit the inconvenience to locals & visitors.

  5. Brad June 13, 2013 10:48 am

    Brandon – I agree that it’s not THAT bad – yet. But you’re selling WYDOT way short here. What else was there to possibly think through? Re-route traffic through Hoback/Staples/Dollar Store? Or, through the corridor from MoJo’s to MacPhail’s? But, should this work have started earlier? Possibly. Should they be working 24/7? Undoubtedly, but I’m sure funding might have been an issue. Given that the only corridor through town is right where they had to work, WYDOT could do no more than eliminate the traffic signals and left turns, as long as we are down to one lane each direction.

    Which leads me to Jim’s point: the town, county, and WYDOT are LONG past the time (20+ years?) to determine a new by-pass route around town. Of course, where do you put it? Spring Gulch Road? Cut in the hillside along the west side of Flat Creek? And then where does it come out My understanding over the 30+ years I have been here is that the business people in town always put up a fierce fight when the subject comes up. Whether it’s a by-pass in the north to Teton Village, or one around the town, do retailers honestly think that if visitors have a way around town, they just won’t decide to come in?

    To Skip’s point, ’nuff said. BTW, what ARE the EMTs’ instructions if such a thing happens? From the south, do they turn up Maple Way and take their chances snaking up Snow King Drive to Willow? From the west bank, turn off Broadway at Scott Lane and engage the snarl there?

    Finally, Mary Erickson needs to re-engage and refocus the “Love, Compassion, Civiility” campaign to local drivers during this mess. I am ashamed of the conduct and attitudes I see coming from local-plated vehicles and not just at the five-way project.

  6. Bennett June 13, 2013 11:47 am

    A north bridge will help divert traffic from Jackson. While there are those who are strongly opposed, a north bridge will reduce traffic on the long stretch of Teton Village Road, perhaps saving moose, reduce air pollution and gasoline consumption, allow easier access to Teton Village from the airport, ease town traffic congestion, and be a viable alternative if and when GTNP closes or restricts the Moose-Wilson road. Tourists keep coming and growing in numbers. Without alternative routes, increased traffic jams will be the norm in Jackson.

  7. Jim Fulmer June 13, 2013 12:06 pm

    Hey, the focus should not be on the few minutes lost by the locals trying to circumnavigate the mess on Broadway and the rest of town but we need to support the local businesses, the source of tax money and income for our work force. The gridlock has to be impacting the businesses negatively. Its almost impossible to get to may of our town businesses and what about working 24/7 like they do in the real world. Our local leaders dropped the ball in not demanding WYDOT require round the clock construction on this project. Its already too late in the spring to be working on this project and imagine potential visitors to town deciding to go around to get to Yellowstone when they hear of the construction mess. Now the request to begin again in mid August is touted as a way to make sure its finished by winter, nonsense just go to work 24/7 and get it done.

  8. Comedienne June 13, 2013 1:55 pm

    What Jim Fulmer said.

  9. D June 13, 2013 4:07 pm

    Government workers and planning at their best! I speak from experience working with the highway crews in the summer during college. It’s a joke show! Work 24/7 that’s laughable they can’t work 40hrs a week.

    On the alternatives… It’s tought to build new roads and protect every sliver land at the same time.

    Jackson desperately needs a new planning/development master plan.

  10. Peggy June 13, 2013 4:22 pm

    I agree that it’s not crazy, yet, but some stuff that might help, or would have helped, follows.

    1) Get rid of 20mph speed on SK – restore 25. Either traffic is already at a crawl or it isn’t and the lower speed make no sense.

    2) Have officer (or flagger) directing traffic at Millward St (truck route) when the feeder streets are backed up. Perhaps WYDOT should change the timing on lights.

    3) Have both lanes of traffic merge using cones – taking turns. When one lane merges into the other, the ‘correct’ lane moves slower and it’s usually always the longer line. Sometimes the lane from which cars are exiting gets delayed because not everyone allows those cars ahead of them. Having both lanes merge forces drivers to take turns properly.

    4) Can’t concrete be poured in the off-season?

    5) WYDOT should not have paved and stripped the highway by the elk refuge at the same time as this reconstruction – long delays there resulted in backed up traffic which came into town all at the same time.

    6) Work 24/7.

    7) Snow King Ave should have Yield Signs for peds. Stop signs removed except for signs at Cache and King and Willow.

  11. Better Merging June 13, 2013 6:58 pm

    Get traffic out of both lanes as they merge. Traffic should merge into a new lane that doesn’t line up with a ‘real’ lane.

  12. Babs June 13, 2013 8:13 pm

    Since we are attacking WYDOT, how about getting them to make the stop lights flash red in all directions when they go down. When side streets see flashing red lights and Broadway has flashing yellow lights, none stops for cross traffic. And you never see local cops directing traffic when the lights go down. It can be hours before WYDOT sends a crew from Rock Springs to fix the lights.

    Additionally, give local control to the message board at 22/Broadway.

  13. Zipper Merge Video - WYDOT's version June 13, 2013 10:18 pm
  14. dave June 14, 2013 6:39 am

    we citizens have spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on our comp plan. does it not address our present and future traffic needs?

  15. Larry June 14, 2013 7:38 am

    I thought they were supposed to be done for the season by today? I thought the plan was to have the five way fully passable?
    Did I think wrong?

  16. D June 14, 2013 8:27 am

    Jackson/Teton County has twice as many LEO’s as they need. I think it’s a good idea to give them a whistle and wand to direct traffic.

  17. Brad June 14, 2013 9:03 am

    June 30 was always the deadline for phase 1. Phase 2 starts August 1.

  18. John June 14, 2013 9:14 am

    Isn’t there a zip-line in a crate somewhere in Jackson not yet going to good use? We could run that zip-line right over the traffic for the summer. Or we could even run it over the Snake from the airport to the Village.

  19. barb June 14, 2013 4:13 pm

    No left turns onto Broadway from the north side of the road – especially at Jackson and Millward.

    COMP PLAN: Denser Core. More Traffic.

    I haven’t read the comp plan so I shouldn’t comment. We pay our electeds to figure this stuff out and they hire consultants and planners and consult with ‘experts’ (WYDOT, etc) so I’m SURE we’ve in good hands when it comes to future transportation needs.

    Eminent domain by the R-Lazy-S or a new road from the airport through the Park to Teton Village will never get done in my lifetime. The truck route via Millard / Mercill will never carry large numbers of cars. A bigger Snow King Ave is out of the question. How exactly do you redirect traffic away from Town Square?

  20. Bern June 14, 2013 5:04 pm

    I blast down Broadway in the outside lane and laugh at you all in the long line.

  21. GloriaB June 15, 2013 12:50 pm

    Agree with Bennette- North bridge, yes!
    (Plus why not have one more possibility for crossing the snake as a safety precaution)

  22. chuck June 15, 2013 6:53 pm

    Might as well finish the lyric, Jim.

    You’re just like crosstown traffic
    So hard to get through to you
    Crosstown traffic
    I don’t need to run over you
    Crosstown traffic
    All you do is slow me down
    And I’m tryin’ to get on the other side of town

    Jimi Hendrix

  23. SueP June 15, 2013 10:26 pm

    Really, Jackson? Is it so horrible to have to sit through a few traffic lights or wait for 10 more minutes? From what I have witnessed, the Town of Jackson & WYDOT is doing a terrific job on this construction project. We have a poorly designed town that makes projects like this, impossible to build without discomfort.
    The end product will be a better (not ideal) but safer intersection with upgraded facilities. I have mostly biked around construction & driven through it when necessary. The delays have been random in time & yes, frustrating when you have a schedule. Be patient Jackson!

  24. Len June 17, 2013 4:29 pm

    “Terrific Job” Perhaps. Quick, no. 24/7 would have been better. Why subject visitors to a negative experience for an extended period of time? Or, locals and the business community along the construction zone? No reason.

    The street was working just fine for me but for $5,754,948 pumped into the local economy, I put up with the traffic jams – we do it anyway every summer.

  25. Jim Stanford June 18, 2013 1:08 pm

    Brad, the second phase of the project is slated to begin Aug. 20, although the contractor, Evans Construction, is going to ask to start earlier, from what I’ve heard.

    The Comprehensive Plan basically calls for another plan to be written, the “integrated transportation plan.” A committee is evaluating three proposals by consultants for putting together this plan. Most of the section devoted to transportation in the Comp Plan talks about alternative modes, i.e. pathways, transit and complete streets. I’m not sure it’s very realistic about our climate, current traffic volumes and visitors’ needs. The national parks have shown little interest in re-envisioning how visitors access the parks.

    A north bridge and Spring Gulch bypass of town have to be considered going forward. Business owners in town must realize this isn’t 1974 and don’t need to have everyone driving by their doorstep to be interested in shopping there. If we can reduce unnecessary traffic in town, it will become that much more desirable to visit.

    WyDOT is willing to work with the community on transportation planning, but too often has been rebuffed when looking to upgrade our road system. A lot of people cry about the prospect of new or wider roads yet continue to drive everywhere, anyway. I think we can continue to make progress in shifting to alternative modes while still increasing capacity and easing congestion on our roadways.

    Regarding the 5-way, if residents reduce unnecessary trips across town this summer, we’ll make more room for visitors during the construction. I’ve been told the worst will be behind us once the first phase is finished; Flat Creek Drive and Pearl Avenue will be useable in at least one direction when the second phase begins.

  26. Brad June 18, 2013 3:31 pm

    Correction noted, Jim, and yes, I do remember now from a Chamber presentation that Aug. 20 was the target phase 2 start.

    North bridge and Spring Gulch bypass. Wow. A public official actually said that. I was just speculating previously, but a north bridge by-pass seems eventual. Spring Gulch, though? I can’t imagine the fight that will take place if that is seriously proposed. But, what to do…

    Your other points are well-made, too, Jim.

  27. Woolly June 18, 2013 8:34 pm

    Jim, Your analysis in your last comment is very accurate. I completely agree that we need alternative routes around the valley, in particular a north bridge and also Hwy 22 desperately needs to be four lanes. I encourage you to lead this discussion with your fellow elected officials.

  28. Christina C June 19, 2013 7:17 am

    As mentioned by Jim, some of these issues are related to alternative modes of transportation. Living on the southern end of the county, the only legal commuter lots once I have driven to town are either through town and the construction or all the way to Stilson and even then the bus does not stop there much in summer.

    As for 24/7 work I am sure the hotels nearby would hate that, but at least start at 7am and go until 10pm.

  29. Walt June 19, 2013 4:48 pm

    Job’s over had they worked 24/7.

    Hotels don’t do much business in April and May. The Jackson Hole Lodge could be offered some form of compensation for the disruption if there’s a serious impact but, just like the other businesses during the day, it’s just a cost of doing business next to a highway. Often, these places house construction workers and do maintenance during the off season.

    Other hotels wouldn’t notice much of an impact due to 24/7 construction. I have 24/7 traffic noise outside my apartment. Sleep just fine.

    Traffic within Town limits will always be an issue. Jackson will have more housing and hotel rooms and visitors and locals. Our planning will never stop traffic jams in the Town.

    I’m guessing that most visitors wouldn’t use a highway bypass up Spring Gulch. They want food, gas, booze, hotel rooms, activities like rafting, shopping in town. It may be good for truck traffic and taxi service but you can imagine the cries from the BBC/G&T folks.

    A 2nd north bridge over the Snake would certainty help redirect traffic to & from Teton Village. Travelers will still visit downtown by car. And a 2nd bridge isn’t on anyone’s radar in a serious way at this point in time.

    The planned, and paved, Moose-Wilson Rd in GTNP will also redirect some traffic.

    Lastly, Jackson really needs to get a clue about the Zipper Merge. Locals do a poor job maintaining lanes and taking turns merging at the start of the construction zone.

  30. Woolly June 19, 2013 8:00 pm

    “You can imagine the cries from BBC/G&T folks.” I live in Golf and Tennis and strongly support a north bridge, as do most of my neighbors. The opposition to it isn’t from folks up here, we realize the need for it. The opposition comes from town square retailers, and I think Jim has done a good job pointing out the fallacy of their position.

  31. Peter June 20, 2013 6:10 am

    “You can imagine the cries from BBC/G&T folks.”

    I think that was a reference to a highway bypass up Spring Gulch Rd – not a north bridge. I’m not so sure your friends and neighbors would support a north bridge with all the traffic through the subdivision. It’s also a ‘critical’ wildlife habitat by the Snake so the critter lovers might have a stink.

    The R-Lazy-S will be lazy for decades to come and Spring Gulch will too.

  32. Peter June 20, 2013 6:50 am

    If you rebuilt Spring Gulch to the Lucas Road (at the north end of the East GV) and then built a new road just north of there across the ranch land toward Warm Springs (by Hwy 89) you could avoid the Golf and Tennis area and downtown.

    This would help locals who wish to avoid downtown and are headed to the south end of Jackson. It won’t help visitors and locals going to TV. For that you need a north bridge by the Airport.

    I look forward to hearing screams from the Riva Ridge homeowners.

  33. slim June 20, 2013 8:11 am

    Face the facts – Teton Co residents have opposed every road expansion ever proposed. Pressured WYDOT into removing 22/390 from their STIP in the 90’s Voted down SPET for Spring Gulch Road easement purchase in 2002. Indian Trails Connector opposed by people who bought there even though it was on the plat. North Bridge has never even had a conversation so don’t start blaming business owners on Square (though traffic modelling for Comp Plan indicated mixed results if it were built as it could increase backup on N Cache). Redundancy in a road system is a good thing but we are constrained by history and geography, and realistically excepting congestion caused by construction the traffic here isn’t that bad. Use your bike

  34. joe June 20, 2013 2:00 pm

    I think that most visitors found that the vast majority of wyoming drivers were courteous and patient, and that the project was reasonably efficient. The west bank and Spring Gulch are critical Rich People habitat and no body wants the traffic any way. why would we? the argument is inane and redundant

  35. madhatter June 20, 2013 3:41 pm

    I’ve been commuting to work on my bike since the weather turned this spring and am thus able to blast past everyone on Snow King…

    That is when rushing, important jerks don’t drive in the bike lane!

    Seriously, it’s a bike lane (sometimes parking for special events). Don’t get agro and pull into the bike lane to pass people. I’m a very courteous and responsible biker (treat myself as a vehicle, as I should) and I still almost get hit on a daily basis now from people pulling out early to turn right, popping into the lane to check out the traffic ahead (Really? It’s not going anywhere unusual) and just generally riding in the right lane.

    Commuter and bike traffic is way up as a result of summer and the construction – its dangerous riding on Snow King right now due to the ignorance of drivers.

  36. Eggheads June 20, 2013 6:54 pm

    Madhatter, good point. Drivers passing me in the bike lane on Snow King drive me bonkers especially when I’m trying to make a right hand turn at the Library and they are blazing down the bike lane trying to make the same turn.

    And don’t get me started on the bike riders who are often as dumb as the car drivers. Ignorant bike riders are in equal supply.

    So, Jim, how much is it costing the city to post all these employees at Snow King, etc?

  37. Brad June 21, 2013 11:03 am

    Just my experience: I am finding local bikeirders more attentive and courteous than ever. So, hats off. The exception is an increasing number who insist on riding on the sidewalk. But with cars crowding the bike lanes (and not just along Snow King), it may be understandable.

    Other than that, what madhatter and Eggheads said.

  38. D_V June 22, 2013 8:05 am

    I find it interesting that no one has spoken up regarding the original intent of the work. I believe the idea was that the intersection was unsafe and needed to be redesigned for that purpose. Correct?

    How unsafe was it? Did anyone ever see crash stats that supported this unsafe environment? And if there were crashes, what was the average speed of each incident? 15mph? How big of a crash does that create? Any loss of life? Or did we just see an increase of fender-benders?

    I think the intent of the project was flawed from the start. It wasn’t a safety issue, it was an issue of WYDOT not being able to get their planning hands around a five-way intersection. Those guys like moving sheet metal and they like doing it with the largest swath of concrete and asphalt they can afford to create.

    At least we get a welcome to Jackson sign and two bike lanes.

  39. Jim Stanford June 24, 2013 12:44 am

    A big part of the project is replacing water and sewer infrastructure beneath the roadway, as well as improving stormwater drainage to reduce runoff into Flat Creek. Many road projects slated for town in the coming years are to replace these aging water and sewer lines, such as along East Broadway, Millward Street and Rancher Street.

    The safety concerns you might be thinking of relate to pedestrians and cyclists. The 5-way intersection was a nightmare for tourists to cross on foot. The rebuilt sidewalks and bike lanes are supposed to help.

  40. JMowow June 25, 2013 9:37 am

    Local politicians have obviously been too busy helping real estate interests make more money and not doing their jobs maintaining public services. Sewer and water lines should have been upgraded a long time ago

  41. Fiddee June 25, 2013 4:22 pm


    Perhaps you do not remember last summer’s Scott Lane, Hansen or Simpson Street water & sewer project? Or how about the 2011 Redmond Street project and the 2011 water tank projects? Did your memory slip on the Karnes Meadow storm water project in 10′ too? Let’s not forget Kelly Street water & sewer rehab in 07′ and the East JH water, sewer, storm and street rehab of 02′-09′. The town utilities have been in the process of being upgraded for the last decade. It’s a never ending battle and the TOJ does a great job.

  42. JMowow June 25, 2013 8:52 pm

    Sounds like TOJ does a lot of catch up and band aid work ?

  43. Finally ticked off...venting June 26, 2013 2:34 pm

    Ok, I get the zipper merge. I get the lady in front of me who decided to merge way before the normal zipper spot. I respect the guy who gave her three car lengths to get into the right lane. But alas, she decided to intentionally keep 4/5ths of her car in my left lane to keep me from moving forward the quarter mile until the zipper merge and then flicked me off when I flashed my lights and passed in the middle lane. Really? And she was a 22 plated driver. So glad we get a break soon.

  44. Brad June 26, 2013 2:41 pm

    JMowow- Town coffers weren’t exactly full to the brim during most of those years mentioned by Fiddee. Could have done other things with their money. Oh, wait…there was 810 West….hmmm.

  45. Pops June 27, 2013 8:32 pm


    Just had to get that out.

    Is WYDOT going to repave Broadway anytime soon? Concrete? What’s the schedule for that project, date set in 2014,15,16?

    Can’t wait for Hwy 22 / 390 / SR Bridge to be rebuilt.

    So, Jim, what does it cost the city to have employees directing traffic, etc on SK?

  46. Justin Adams June 28, 2013 4:36 pm

    This is only a taste of what lies ahead as the ‘new norm’ when the town more than doubles its population with unchecked growth under the new comp plan. North Bridge? Set us up for the JH Grand Prix in shoulder seasons. WE are creating traffic that will carve into our wildlife like a chainsaw. Major cultural shift is underway.

  47. Jim Stanford July 2, 2013 9:17 am

    Pops, I don’t know the cost, but it was worth every penny. And cheaper than hiring an outside firm.

    Not aware of any plans to repave Broadway. Highways 22 and 390 and new Wilson bridge won’t be rebuilt until 2020, at the earliest.

    As for JMowow’s “catch up and band aid,” the town budgets 10 years out for capital construction projects. These are major investments that cost millions, replacing infrastructure built as far back as the 1940s and ’50s. There is a backlog of this kind of work — the drainage system and tubes funneling Cache Creek underneath town are terribly antiquated, for instance — and it takes years of saving to pay for it. Also, the whole town can’t be torn up at once.

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