Forest Service roads start receiving improvements
WYOMING – Bridger-Teton National Forest will begin grading several roads upon forest system lands throughout Lincoln, Sublette and Teton counties once surfaces are dry enough for grading.
Projects began in Sublette County this week with roadwork scheduling remaining fluid.
“It is weather dependent, and we go where the action is,” forest engineer Mike Oltman said. “Each year looks different and this year the snow melted off of Jackson pretty quick and we have already done maintenance on Fall Creek Road and Cache Creek in Teton County this spring.”
He said there are factors in addition to the weather.
“A lot of our road maintenance scheduling is emergency dependent too, and if we have a slump, a slide, or a washout where the road is falling away, we try to move our crews there to address the situation,” he said. “We always mobilize to try to keep access open.”
Multiple components are considered before crews begin roadwork maintenance at any given project. A balance of moisture, not too muddy or not bone dry, can be essential when conducting maintenance work.
“We need a good window without pouring rain, and so weekly we look at the forecast and latest conditions and we have learned we just have to be flexible,” Oltman said.
Most maintenance projects bring some sort of one-lane closure and delay along with it. Oltman said engineers will do everything in their power to prevent full road closures during maintenance.
“We are also thoughtful when it comes to scheduling road maintenance projects too,” he said. “We intentionally make every effort to not schedule road work during holidays and weekends in order to keep roads open and delay-free for the public.”
Those working know the importance of maintaining a function road that is suitable for all visitors. With Western Wyoming already experiencing record amounts of tourism, engineers and workers take these projects seriously in hopes of limiting any interruptions to activities.
“While it is a temporary inconvenience to forest users, we believe that the long-term benefits of the road improvements will far outweigh the short-term inconvenience,” district ranger Justin Laycock said.
One of the larger immediate projects includes grading and resurfacing Greys River Road near Alpine, in Laycock’s district.
Forest visitors are urged to remain alert and follow all signage. Drivers should slow their vehicles and give road equipment a wide berth. Actual conditions could also adjust travel plans as construction varies to fit the circumstances. Scheduled road work dates are shared among district offices but are subject to change with inclement weather conditions.
Not all roads needing repairs or grading will receive them this year.
“We target 300 miles of road maintenance every year and that doesn’t just mean fixing ruts and potholes,” Oltman said. “Road maintenance consists of a whole suite of activities including everything from blading, to culvert cleaning, adding gravel, sidearm mowing, culvert replacement and ditch reconstruction, so you can’t measure it by trying to say all that needs to be done is scraping 300 miles each year of the 2,000 miles of road on the entire forest.”
Some road work goes as far as conducting heavy maintenance that could potentially border on road reconstruction.
Priority is based upon use and potential environmental impacts, along with support of forest management objectives. At least some maintenance is required annually on the highest-use roads to prevent degrading and to protect water and soil resources.
In practice, the forest service plans on roads being maintained in one of the multiple facets every three to five years.