Jackson Hole Rolls Closer to Transportation Connections

Teton County recently took another step toward a fully connected and integrated transit and pathway system after receiving an $8 million federal grant to build critical facilities.

The money will be used to build a bus barn for the Southern Teton Area Rapid Transit (START) bus system and expand pathways to connect the facility to Jackson Hole’s extensive pathway network.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will help pay for the nearly $14 million initial bus barn construction. The Town of Jackson has budgeted $10 million in local funds for the project.

Another $1.5 million of the grant money will fund construction of various pathway segments and a one-mile pathway surrounding the bus barn in the Karns Meadow. Remaining grant funds can be used for the second phase of barn construction, town officials say.

That Karns pathway will connect to a major complete streets project at the nearby five-way intersection on Broadway, providing multi-modal access to downtown Jackson. Crews have been working on the intersection this summer while simultaneously building other pathways along Broadway. Those pathways will connect Jackson to Wilson, six miles west.

New bike lanes and pathway along Broadway, as well as a pathway along Highway 22, going to Wilson, are scheduled for completion next year. The project includes a bridge across the Snake River and an underpass under Highway 390, which leads to Teton Village.

The TIGER grants are competitive and difficult to win, said Brian Schilling, Jackson Hole Community Pathways Coordinator. Schilling helped write the grant.

“I was very surprised,” Schilling said. The town of Jackson tried unsuccessfully several times to win the grant in previous years.

The barn construction, pathways and complete streets intersection are part of a larger $52 million long-range plan to provide alternative, nonmotorized modes of transportation for Jackson Hole residents and the nearly 4 million people who visit each year.

The purpose of the bus barn is to provide heated parking for the buses, removing the need to idle them and generate air pollution during extreme cold weather. Housing the vehicles in a heated environment also is expected to reduce maintenance costs and extend the life of the fleet.

The fleet currently is parked and maintained in Jackson’s public works yard. Without a new, larger facility, the bus system cannot expand to serve growing demand. Ridership tripled between 2000 and 2008.

Some of the buses are diesel/electric hybrids, part of an effort by the town and county to reduce pollution and strive for a greener, more environmentally sustainable community. Long-range plans call for biodiesel and natural gas fueling capabilities at the barn site.

When complete, the bus facility will include bicycle parking and storage lockers. Eventually, the site also could become home to a bike share station. A 2011 study by Alta Bike share concluded that Jackson could have a bike share program similar to one in Washington, D.C.