Most of the construction work on Park County’s state highways is nearing an end for the year, but the Wyoming Department of Transportation has already drawn up plans for the construction …
Most of the construction work on Park County’s state highways is nearing an end for the year, but the Wyoming Department of Transportation has already drawn up plans for the construction seasons to come.
At a county commission meeting last week, WYDOT laid out their tentative projects for the coming six years — a list that includes resurfacing the Corbett Bridge east of Cody, fixing another sliding section of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and repaving the North Fork Highway outside of Yellowstone National Park.
The bulk of this year’s work is already done, including the final touches on a $5 million revamp of Cody’s Sheridan Avenue/17th Street.
“In about four more weeks we’re going to be pretty much finished up in Park County,” said WYDOT Resident Engineer Todd Frost — though some repairs, milling, paving and chip sealing will continue through October on Wyo. Highway 120 north of Cody.
As for next summer, WYDOT plans to mill and repave U.S. Highway 14-A and replace some damaged guardrails on a 2-mile stretch east of Cody — including the Corbett Bridge. The estimated cost is around $1.8 million.
That section of the highway narrows from five to three lanes, creating something of a chokepoint. It’s been an area of concern for Park County commissioners, as there’s a high amount of traffic turning onto and coming off of Road 2AB just east of the bridge.
However, WYDOT officials have repeatedly said that they have no plans to expand 14-A in that area. For one thing, they are limited by the width of the bridge and the width of the existing right-of-way. Frost said widening the road would require acquiring more land along the highway and run into conflicts with water lines and other infrastructure in the ground.
Still, WYDOT is exploring options for the busy intersection, District Engineer Pete Hallsten indicated.
“We did put that in for safety money, but it did not get approved this time,” Hallsten said, adding that, “We’ll continue to pursue that.”
Meanwhile, tourists heading from Cody into the Shoshone National Forest and Yellowstone can expect to run into some construction in the coming years.
“Believe it or not, that road is 24 years old already,” Frost said. Since being reconstructed in the late 1990s, he said U.S. 14/16/20 has taken a beating from the tens of thousands of vehicles traveling through the Shoshone to Yellowstone’s East Gate each year.
A new pavement overlay and chip sealing are set for next year, starting at the East Entrance and continuing east for 10 miles. It’s a roughly $5.8 million project.
The next 10 miles are tentatively set to be repaved and sealed in 2026.
Closer to Cody, near Buffalo Bill Dam, crews are set to upgrade the lighting and safety measures at the highway’s tunnels next year. Frost said WYDOT plans to install new LED fixtures and may add warning lights for bicycles and pedestrians at the tunnel’s entrances. The exhaust system in the main tunnel is also set for repairs, for a total project cost of around $1.9 million.
A leveling, overlay and chip sealing is also in the plans for U.S. 14/16/20 as it passes along Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Between Trout Creek and the North Shore bay, four areas of the road have settled, Frost said. That $4.6 million project is set for 2023.
A $2 million effort to armor the shore of the reservoir against erosive waves is planned for 2024; WYDOT has been losing guardrail in the area, Frost said, located between a popular spot for cliff jumping and a rockfall fence not far from the dam.
On the eastern side of Cody, WYDOT plans to mill, overlay and chip seal nearly 15 miles of U.S. 14/16/20 in 2023. The $7.8 million job will stretch from the Oregon Basin area to the Big Horn County line.
That same year, the department plans to overlay and chip seal nearly 10 miles of Wyo. Highway 294 as it passes from the Clark area into Badger Basin.
As for the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, WYDOT is hoping that recent work to stabilize a sliding section of the route near the summit of Dead Indian Pass proves to be a long-lasting fix. However, the department has already been forced to make plans to bolster another slipping section near the Two Dot Ranch. A contractor will be selected in December, with an estimated cost around $4.4 million.
That’s not the only work scheduled for the Chief Joseph Byway in the coming years, either. In 2024 and 2025, WYDOT intends to overlay and chip seal 17 miles of the route as it spurs off from the Beartooth Highway. The work is estimated to cost around $10.1 million.
In the Meeteetse area, WYDOT plans to repave and chip seal the final 6 miles of Wyo. Highway 120 between the town and Cody next summer for roughly $3.5 million.
Another 8 miles of Wyo. 120, located just south of Meeteetse, are penciled for a similar overlay in 2025. As part of the project, WYDOT plans to add a left-turn lane near a new RV park and the department’s Meeteetse maintenance shop.
“People keep running into the back of the [snow] plows there,” said District Construction Engineer Randy Merritt.
Although it’s not a WYDOT project, contractors under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Transportation are currently working on a substantial construction project on the Beartooth Highway. The $27 million job — which includes constructing a bridge to cross a mountainous ravine — is supposed to wrap up by the fall, though WYDOT officials said they believed the project was running behind schedule.
The department’s own Wyoming Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) is a “living document,” Merritt said.
“Of course projects may move depending on funding,” Frost said, “and other projects may be added.”
From July 26 through Aug. 30, members of the public can visit www.wydotstipmeeting.com to learn more about the STIP and provide input.
Overall, the department says it faces $354.3 million worth of unfunded needs each year, though it recently got a $63 million boost from the package of federal COVID relief bills.
If awarded more cash, whether from the federal government or otherwise, WYDOT says it would: add projects “to maintain the assets we have”; move forward with some delayed projects; and update its fleet, equipment and facilities.
WYDOT maintains 6,700 miles of roads and 6,000 bridges/structures, along with tens of thousands of signs, culverts and miles of fencing.