United States

‘Catastrophic’ Landslide Indefinitely Blocks Crucial Wyoming-Idaho Mountain Highway

The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) has announced that a significant section of Teton Pass, a key highway in western Wyoming, has collapsed due to a massive landslide.

Teton pass landslide. Photo: X

The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) announced that the road at milepost 12.8 had "catastrophically failed," with images showing extensive damage. A massive landslide caused the collapse of a crucial section of Teton Pass, a key highway in western Wyoming, on Saturday morning, effectively cutting off the primary route between Victor, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyoming.

Officials anticipate the road will remain closed long-term, potentially impacting nearly half the workforce in the region's tourist hubs, including Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Park.

The initial crack was noticed on Thursday. It spanned both lanes and dropped vertically by about 8 inches, creating unsafe driving conditions. Although crews patched the crack and resumed traffic, another mudslide on Friday morning forced the road to close again.

Attempts to construct a detour were thwarted as the landslide continued, destroying a significant section of the highway. No injuries or equipment damage have been reported.

"WYDOT is now reviewing a long-term solution and repairs, and more information on planning efforts will be available soon," the department stated. Meanwhile, crews are also clearing debris from another mudslide at milepost 15.

Teton Pass, a 17-mile stretch carved into the Teton mountain range, is the only direct route between Victor and Jackson. Despite its treacherous conditions during certain times of the year, the highway is vital for commuting workers, deliveries, medical care access, and tourism in Teton County. The closure forces travelers onto a lengthy 85-mile detour, tripling the usual 30-minute drive.

"We understand this highway is a lifeline for commuters, deliveries, medical care access, and tourism, especially with limited alternatives and the summer season upon us," said Darin Westby, WYDOT director. "WYDOT engineers, surveyors, and geologists mobilized quickly to try to maintain highway viability as long as possible, but catastrophic failure could not be avoided."

In January, a Federal Highway Administration study highlighted the importance of Teton Pass as a critical connection for commuters and recreationists. The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board assured that businesses in Jackson, as well as Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, remain open. However, they acknowledged the closure's significant impact on the workforce, with 40% of Teton County's employees commuting from Idaho.

"Although businesses will do their best to support employees and commuters, and will work to remain open and maintain normal operating hours and services, it is expected that the workforce will be affected," the board stated. "As a community, we ask visitors and locals to exercise patience and understanding if you experience longer than normal wait times or interruptions in services."

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon expressed gratitude for WYDOT's efforts to protect public safety and emphasized the urgency of finding a long-term solution. "I recognize the impacts this closure has on Teton County residents, regional commuters, and the local economy," he said.

The WYDOT remains "decisively engaged on fixing the road and restoring connectivity to the Teton Valley," said Westby. However, a timeline for reopening the road has not yet been established.