Large chunk of Wyoming’s Teton Pass road collapses; unclear how quickly it can be rebuilt

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A large chunk of a mountain pass highway in Wyoming has collapsed, severing a well-traveled commuter link between small towns in eastern Idaho and the tourist destination of Jackson

JACKSON, Wyo. — A large chunk of a twisting mountain pass road collapsed in Wyoming, authorities said Saturday, leaving a gaping chasm in the highway and severing a well-traveled commuter link between small towns in eastern Idaho and the tourist destination of Jackson.

Aerial photos and drone video of the collapse show the Teton Pass road riven with deep cracks, and a big section of the pavement disappeared altogether. Part of the guardrail dangled into the void, and orange traffic drums marked off the danger area. The road was closed at the time of the collapse.

The section that failed first drew attention Thursday when a crack and drop in the road contributed to the crash of a motorcycle.

Geologists and engineers who were sent to the area that day noticed “that crack and that drop started to move a lot,” said Stephanie Harsha, a spokesperson for District 3 of the Wyoming Department of Transportation. A paving crew temporarily patched the road, and traffic began moving again that night.

But that was short-lived as maintenance crews were sent to respond to a mudslide a couple of miles away in the pre-dawn hours of Friday, prompting the road to be closed once again.

Crews then noticed that the damage to the pavement had become more pronounced. Workers trying to figure out a detour around that section left for the night, “and by 5 a.m., this morning, WYDOT had discovered that the road had completely failed,” Harsha said Saturday.

“We were very, very lucky that no crews were harmed. No equipment was damaged,” she said. “So now, engineers and geologists are doing geological assessments on the pass. They’ve been looking at it all day.”

The transportation department said via social media that the road “catastrophically failed” at milepost 12.8.

It was not immediately clear how long it will take to reopen the road, a vital artery for people who live across the border in Idaho and work in pricey Jackson, which is also close to the popular Grand Teton National Park.

Harsha said an alternate route between Jackson and the area of Victor, Idaho, goes more than 60 miles (97 kilometers) out of the way and adds “quite a bit to any commute.”

Gov. Mark Gordon signed an executive order declaring an emergency, which his office said would help the state access additional resources from the Federal Highway Administration to begin repair work.

In a statement, the governor said the transportation department is working on “a long-term solution to rebuild this critical roadway.”

“I recognize the significant impacts this closure has to Teton County residents, regional commuters and the local economy,” Gordon said.

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