Damage to Wyoming’s Teton Pass Highlights Need for Investment in Infrastructure
June 11, 2024
A collapsed section of Teton Pass in Wyoming | Image credit: CNN Travel

Teton Pass is one of 21 scenic byways across Wyoming. It serves as a conduit to both Idaho and the heavily trafficked Grand Teton National Park. On Thursday, June 6, 2024, an 8-inch-deep crack appeared across both lanes of the highway. The patch was quickly repaired by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and normal traffic along the byway was restored.

The following morning, a mudslide several miles away from the location of the original crack forced WYDOT to yet again close Teton Pass to traffic. The landslide continued to grow, leading to a massive section of the road falling into the valley below. In a statement to NBC news, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon stated that there were no injuries as a result of the damage, and that his team was working on a “long-term solution to rebuild the roadway.”

The highway is expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, Gov. Gordon has issued an executive order declaring an emergency which he and his colleagues say will boost resources from the Federal Highway Administration to begin repairing the scenic route.

The collapse comes at a particularly unfortunate time as the summer tourist season is kicking off in Grand Teton National Park. The collapse is sure to affect travel as the road serves as a vital travel artery for the gateway community of Jackson, WY, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. The detour suggested by WYDOT will take travelers more than 60 miles out of the way, adding significant travel times of those eager to visit the parks in the busy summer months.

Events like these are far too frequent and often preventable. This disaster is the most recent example of how our infrastructure is quite literally crumbling beneath our feet. Significant adjustment to state and local investment in roadway infrastructure is crucial to protecting our landscapes, the lives of travelers, and the economic engine that is the scenic byway system. These implications are especially meaningful in scenic areas and gateway communities.

Routine maintenance and supervision are imperative to protecting our highways in areas which are prone to landslides and other natural disasters. We encourage everyone to report areas in need of repair or attention your state department of transportation. What seems like a small pothole or crack in the concrete may lead to larger issues in the future, or in extreme cases, disasters like the collapse of Teton Pass.

Scenic America is committed to ensuring continued funding for the National Scenic Byways Program through the congressional appropriations process. We are currently asking for $60 million in the FY 2025 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development budget to be included specifically for the National Scenic Byways Program. This investment in our nation’s byways will help strengthen our transportation infrastructure and prevent future events like the collapse of Teton Pass.

Click here to send a message to your representatives asking them to support a $60 million investment in the National Scenic Byways Program for FY 2025.