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The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration between Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, KUNR in Nevada, Nevada Public Radio, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana and Wyoming Public Media, with support from affiliate stations across the region.

Crews working on temporary bypass around collapsed section of Teton Pass highway

Drone footage slows a huge chunk missing from a U-shaped bend in the way.
Wyoming Department of Transportation
The Wyoming Department of Transportation began evaluating a temporary bypass around a collapsed section of State Highway 22 on June 10.

Wyoming officials are scrambling to reconnect eastern Idaho and northwest Wyoming after a significant portion of highway over Teton Pass collapsed due to a landslide June 8.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) is constructing a temporary road through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest to bypass the missing chunk of highway over Teton Pass.

“Currently, WYDOT geologists and engineers are confident they can build a safe, temporary detour around the slide area using local fill material and paving two temporary lanes. They are hoping to have a temporary detour open to the public, likely with some strict weight and width restrictions, in a few weeks,” the agency wrote in a press release June 10.

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A large crack splits a two-lane highway. Large orange cones mark the hazard.
Wyoming Department of Transportation
A crack splitting Wyoming State Highway 22 was first noticed June 7 ahead of the landslide that collapsed a section of roadway.

“These guys are working around the clock to ensure that we can get at least a detour open as soon as possible,” WYDOT Director Darin Westby said at a county meeting.

At a town meeting later Monday, Teton County Emergency Management Coordinator Rich Ochs told town councilors WYDOT is cutting down trees to build the detour to the side of the collapsed roadway.

But ultimately, he couldn’t share much about the plan. Highway 22 is a state roadway, meaning it’s primarily state agencies making the decisions using primarily state resources.

“Our costs are mostly indirect,” Ochs said.

Geologists and engineers are evaluating the stability of the area WYDOT has dubbed “Big Fill" to put together a long-term plan to rebuild the roadway, but there’s no timeline for construction as of now. WYDOT said it will be flying the area with a survey plane and doing some geological drilling in preparation for the reconstruction.

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Big Fill Slide - June 8, 2024

The blowout at Wyoming Highway 22 milepost 12.8 follows a separate mudslide at milepost 15, which crews continue to manage. Geologists and engineers are installing a box culvert to provide more drainage to the affected area. WYDOT said its goal is to finish this work by the time the temporary detour at milepost 12.8 is ready for limited traffic.

A river of mud covers a two-lane highway. A yellow bulldozer looks tiny in comparison. Mud is flowing downhill onto the roadway and oozing off the other size.
Wyoming Department of Transportation
A mudslide engulfs Wyoming State Highway 22 at mile marker 15 on June 7.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks remain open to visitors and local town and county departments are assuring the public that Jackson is too. WYDOT is working with the U.S. Forest Service to offer access to recreation and campsites unaffected by either slide.

Teton Pass connects the popular tourist destination of Jackson with more than 3,000 of the town’s workers living in Idaho. The area generates about a third of the state’s travel and tourism tax revenue.

WYDOT estimates Teton Pass sees an annual average daily traffic of almost 10,000 vehicles per day in certain locations along the pass. Summer highs can reach 15,000 vehicles.

Until it’s built, the pass is closed to commuters indefinitely, forcing them to travel over an hour out of the way.

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Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has issued an emergency declaration in response to both slides to mobilize additional resources and personnel. The declaration also helps the state access additional resources from the Federal Highway Administration.

Dante Filpula Ankney comes to KHOL as a lifelong resident of the Mountain West. He made his home on the plains of Eastern Montana before moving to the Western Montana peaks to study journalism and wilderness studies. Dante has found success producing award-winning print, audio and video stories for a variety of publications, including a stint as a host at Montana Public Radio. Most recently, he spent a year teaching English in Bulgaria through a Fulbright Fellowship. When he isn’t reporting, you can find Dante outside scaling rocks, sliding across snow or winning a game of cribbage.