Massive chunk of Wyoming's Teton Pass crumbles; unclear how quickly the road can be rebuilt

JACKSON, Wyo. — A massive chunk of the meandering Teton Pass has collapsed, leaving a gaping dirt gash along the mountain pass that is a critical link between small eastern Idaho towns and the tourist destination of Jackson, Wyoming.

The road was closed at the time the section of road fell away, authorities said Saturday, following a mudslide a couple miles away and amid ongoing concerns with a crack and drop in the road that first drew attention Thursday after a motorcycle crash. It is unclear how long it will take to rebuild the road, a highly used commuter route for people who work in pricey Jackson but live across the border in Idaho. Jackson is also close to the popular Grand Teton National Park.

Part of the reason for the motorcycle crash was the crack and drop in the road, said Stephanie Harsha, a spokesperson for District 3 of the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Geologists and engineers sent to the area Thursday “noticed that that crack and that drop started to move a lot,” she said. A paving crew temporarily patched the site, and traffic began moving again along the highway that night, she said.

The opening was short-lived. By around 3:30 a.m. Friday, maintenance crews were sent to a mudslide over a section of the pass a couple miles away, closing the road again, she said. While that was cleared, the road remained closed Friday because of the crack and the drop that had become more pronounced, she said. Crews that were trying to figure out a detour around the site left for the night “and by 5 a.m., this morning, WYDOT had discovered that the road had completely failed,” Harsha said.

“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 department on social media said the road at milepost 12.8 had “catastrophically failed.” 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.

“We are closely monitoring this ongoing situation, and Wyoming Department of Transportation personnel are working diligently to develop a long-term solution to rebuild this critical roadway,” Gordon said in a statement. “I recognize the significant impacts this closure has to Teton County residents, regional commuters and the local economy.”

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

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