Why the Conservation Alliance Invested in Transportation
The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance just completed an extensive transportation study, analyzing the future of the Highway 22 corridor between the Town of Jackson, Highway 390 and Teton Pass, with recommendations to mitigate the transportation challenges facing those roadways.
During that process, we were asked, fairly frequently, why does a conservation organization get involved in transportation? Many asked, why don’t you focus on “Protecting the wildlife, wild places and community character of Jackson Hole?” as it says in your mission?
The answer is simple. Finding innovative transportation alternatives for Highway 22 is directly linked to our mission. Wilson and the West Bank represent a critical wildlife habitat and a corridor to moose, elk, other ungulates, and diverse wildlife. Bumper to bumper traffic creates barriers and significant challenges.
We’ve spent the past two years working with nationally acclaimed sustainable transportation consultants, Nelson Nygaard, who studied traffic volumes, patterns, and a range of transportation options for the Highway 22 corridor. They determined solutions to traffic congestion that maintain Wilson as a natural corridor instead of a traffic throughway, and that would not pose additional challenges to wildlife.
In the coming weeks, the Conservation Alliance will be presenting “Jackson Hole Transportation Study – Considering Wyoming 22 Futures.” We will be making presentations to members of the Town Council, the County Commissioners, the media and the general public, with two public forums: one in Town at the Virginian and one in Wilson at the Old Wilson School. Our plan explores multiple solution options, including:
- Dramatically increased, improved transit.
- Shared rides.
- Staggered business hours, off-peak work schedules.
- Pathways, combining human powered and e-bikes and electric propelled options.
- Parking management in the Town of Jackson.
Our goal, from the beginning, was to find solutions that aren’t focused on additional lanes of traffic to reduce traffic congestion. There are many shortcomings to adding lanes.
- The inevitability of “induced demand” – Transportation managers have known for a long time that when you add new lanes to reduce congestion, it is inevitable that the traffic will increase commensurately, and you’ll soon have the same congestion in more lanes; more congestion, more cars, more emissions. The Katy Freeway, near Houston, has 26 lanes and still suffers congestion. More lanes never reduce congestion.
- Increasing lanes makes highways significantly more challenging for wildlife, closing corridors and creating immeasurable stress.
- Additional lanes will make the Wilson Corridor the Wilson Thru-way, forever changing the wild places and “community character.”
The next few years will be pivotal ones for Jackson Hole. Will we grow like ‘collar counties’ grow; in hundreds of communities from Orange County, East Bay, Park City and others? Or will we plan and innovate with patience and passion and preserve our wildlife and wild places? We believe the patient steady hand is the best solution, while we stay in our lane and work for the community we cherish.
We hope to see you at our public forums in early February, listed below:
Wednesday, February 8th at 6:30 – The Virginian Conference Center.
Thursday, February 9th at 6:30 – The Old Wilson Schoolhouse (Seating is limited).