Beware of Tribal Trails Connector

By on April 9, 2018

A petition launched by “Responsible Growth JH” has garnered 425 signatures and almost 300 comments about plans for a Tribal Trails connector road.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The Tribal Trails Cutoff is an example of how more roads harm our community goals outlined in the Teton County Comprehensive Plan. Drivers don’t come close to paying the costs of the roads they use and siphon off much-needed funding from other more important community projects. The 7 million dollar-plus—and growing—price tag for the TTC only includes the new road and no improvements to other areas negatively impacted by the proposed cutoff. It will take away from investments in affordable housing, education, pathways, wildlife protection, health, road maintenance, other critical infrastructure maintenance and START Bus.

The report Who Pays for Roads? by the Frontier Group and the U.S. Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups exposes the myth that drivers are covering what they’re using. The amount “road users pay through gas taxes now accounts for less than half of what’s spent to maintain and expand the road system,” the report reads. “The resulting shortfall is made up from other sources of tax revenue at the state and local levels, generated by drivers and non-drivers alike. This subsidizing of car ownership costs the typical household about $1,100 per year—over and above the costs of gas taxes, tolls, and other user fees.”

Do we want to add more financial burdens to local family budgets and reduce community services to keep subsidizing county, state and national traffic congestion?

I recently attended a traffic modeling meeting that includes the TTC area. This traffic study should be completed and its findings publicly discussed before any contract decision with WYDOT. This expensive strategy of putting the cart before the horse is unwise.

The modeling should also be more inclusive. The macro traffic model, unfortunately, does little to predict problems that will be caused by the TTC on the ground in and around High School Road. It is a look from a thousand feet up dealing in generalities. I asked if issues concerning the one way in and out of the Corner Creek Lane Neighborhood and High School Road would be included. What about the negative impacts of GPS alerting tourists to cut through neighborhoods and school zones on their way through the valley or to the stores from Teton Village and the West Bank area?

These bad driving habits would not be corrected over time because of quick tourist turnover. It would be a lot like the movie Groundhog Day, but without the feel-good ending. Will the increased pollution levels in and around the schools and neighborhoods from more stop-and-go congestion, created by the TTC, be included? What about traffic numbers from the Gregory Lane industrial zone that borders the school playground and athletic fields? It’s approved build-out with more industrial and residential living, plus the TTC, will generate even more traffic and pollution than High School Road can handle. Also, there is no school bus service close to the schools. How will that affect Moms and Dads wanting their children to be safe? Instead of letting their children walk or bike through dangerous intersections, will they opt to drive them, killing any effort of walkable and bike-friendly neighborhoods?

The macro traffic model is said to be more cost effective than doing a more inclusive model. Cutting costs now to avoid the truth will only create more economic, environmental and social costs later. We need to acknowledge all the consequences beforehand.

The game of ‘Whack A Mole’ has been alluded to by concerned officials and citizens at meetings on the TTC. Building a state and county traffic “bypass” as WYDOT calls it, would create a bigger game board, spreading the ‘Whack A Mole’ problem to residential neighborhoods and school zones. It creates a traffic inducing road that in short order will be revisited and widened when the TTC becomes congested. The TTC will also open up the whole South Park area to more political pressure by developers for more suburban sprawl.

There have been hundreds of comments by the community over the years who favor other solutions that are more sustainable and safer than the TTC proposal. More recent public comments concerning the TTC helped remove it from the SPET. Our patience gets tried repeatedly as elected officials, especially ones that possibly want to further themselves politically, continue to push for this high priced short term fix despite the very real long term negative impacts. As a community, we should be working for solutions that do not endanger worthier, community projects and goals.

 

 

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