The Wyoming Department of Transportation is planning to widen Highway 89 to five lanes through Star Valley.
Two years ago we submitted a list of 15 items that are needed on our Lower Valley’s “main street.” There are areas where turn lanes are needed. Occasional passing lanes and acceleration lanes are needed. Better curve signage is needed. Reduced speed limits in some areas, especially around the Game & Fish Wildlife Management Area south of Alpine, are needed.
We had many ideas to improve safety and access as Star Valley grows.
What is NOT needed, in the opinion of many, is a five-lane super-highway that runs the length of the Valley.
The five-lane project is being driven by a ten-year-old federal plan, devised to keep District 3 WYDOT personnel busy*. It does not consider local, Star Valley specific needs. We think the five-lane plan is an unneeded misuse of precious funds at a time when the state is unable to fully contribute its share.
In light of reduced state revenues, expansion projects all over Wyoming are being reconsidered in favor of “asset maintenance” – repairing existing roads. The exception is the use of Abandoned Mine Lands money for “roads impacted by mineral development” – roads which do not exist in Star Valley.
A review of the accident reports over ten years does not demonstrate how five lanes would have prevented any of them.
Star Valley is growing, and we need to accommodate that growth – but, five-lanes is wasteful. Highway 89’s Scenic Byway designation was hard won. Many people think five lanes will reduce the scenic nature of the valley. We think the spirit of the Scenic Byway can be preserved while accommodating the needs of a growing valley.
More than 400 properties between Thayne and Alpine will be impacted as WYDOT buys up rights-of-way, or seizes property through its power of eminent domain. In many cases, front yards will be eliminated.
Let’s work with WYDOT toward a Valley solution to the needs of our residents and businesses.
* June 17, 2015, WYDOT employee in a public meeting: “We need projects to keep our folks busy.”