Wet and cold weather on Oct. 16 may have required a change in logistics, but it did not dampen spirits for a celebration of the completion of seven years of reconstruction work on US 26-287, the “Togwotee Trail to Yellowstone,” west of Dubois.

The event, which included a bus tour starting in Dubois, was capped by a ribbon-cutting ceremony, originally scheduled to be held outside at a scenic overlook about nine miles west of the summit of Togwotee Pass. Rain and snow prompted the location to be moved inside to WYDOT’s new maintenance facility about seven miles east of the pass.

Shelby Carlson, District 5 Engineer, cut the ribbon to officially open all sections of the new highway. “The road is beautiful,” Carlson said. “And we did retain the scenic beauty of Togwotee Pass.

Photo: Rick Carpenter

Shelby Carlson (center), District 5 Engineer, and other dignitaries during the official opening of the reconstructed Togwotee Trail.

“We’ve had wildlife we had to accommodate. We have wetlands we’ve had to accommodate,” Carlson continued. “We have landslides; everybody thinks those mountains are sitting still, but they’re not. They’re moving all the time.”

The grand opening tour left the Headwaters in Dubois the morning of the event with a 54-passenger Dubois school bus accompanied by a 15-passenger van. Nearly 65 people signed up to tour the Togwotee Trail project corridor. Five stops were scheduled where passengers could get outside and experience the trail first hand.

“During the bus tour, participants weathered rain, snow, and finally some sunshine with an amazing rainbow with both ends visible. As a fortuitous sign, one end of the rainbow actually appeared to stretch down onto the highway,” wrote Judith Strausberger, WYDOT’s Togwotee Trail public involvement specialist.

One of the tour stops was the wildlife arch located 10.5 miles east of Moran Jct. This site was chosen for the arch after studies showed extensive use as a wildlife crossing.

This is also the location of the Rosie’s East landslide, where a toe berm was constructed to help stabilize the large, creeping landslide. The toe berm area is south of the highway and below the wildlife arch.

A lunch-stop at the new maintenance shop included humorous anecdotes and fiddle playing by Les Hamilton in his role as Roamin’ Wyomin’, construction cowboy.

Lyle Lamb, WYDOT project engineer in Dubois during most of the Togwotee Trail project series, related facts about the seven-year reconstruction of the 38-mile corridor. He answered questions, and described the innovative construction techniques used on the Brooks Lake, Togwotee Pass/ Fourmile Meadows, Rosie’s Ridge, and Buffalo Fork River sections of the project.

Togwotee Trail Reconstruction By The Numbers

The now-concluded improvement of US 26-287, the primary corridor connecting central Wyoming to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National parks, served to boost traveler convenience and safety in a number of ways. Crews replaced deteriorated road base and pavement, improved roadway drainage and widened the road to include eight-foot shoulders for bicycle use and emergency parking. Other numbers associated with the effort:

  • N Eight passing lanes added, along with 16 parking areas (300 parking stalls);
  • N 3.7 million cubic yards of dirt and rock excavation;
  • N 575,000 tons of crushed gravel topped by 245,000 tons of new asphalt;
  • N 3,755 linear feet of retaining walls;
  • N 1.2 million square yards (enough to cover 200 football fields) of construction fabrics;
  • N 17 landslides stabilized, with more than 22 miles of horizontal drains installed for slide mitigation;
  • N Five structures for deer, elk, moose, bison, bears and smaller wildlife to safely cross underneath the new highway, along with three underpasses for snowmobiles, which can also be used by wildlife.