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Grand Teton Gets Go-Ahead on Transportation Corridors


    In a decision that will delight some, and possibly anger others, the Park Service has given Grand Teton officials the go-ahead to build more than 40 miles of multi-use pathways through the park.
    The work will be staged in phases, with planning and design for the first stretch --from  Moose to South Jenny Lake-- scheduled to take place this year with construction to follow next year.
    Twenty-three miles of pathways between the park's south boundary and String Lake Junction will be outside existing road corridors, while 16 miles of shoulder widening to create bike and pedestrian lanes will be built between North Jenny Lake Junction and Colter Bay. Another section of path, roughly 3 miles in length, will be installed along the Moose-Wilson Road from the Granite Canyon Entrance to the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve.
    Additionally, two sections of the Moose-Wilson Road will be realigned to restore aspen and wetlands habitat. 
      Part of the program calls for monitoring of both wildlife and visitor use, with baseline studies to be conducted this summer. Along with installing the pathways, the project calls for a study to determine the viability of a sustainable public transit system in the park.

    If you want to review the EIS and Record of Decision, click over to this site.
    The entire project is estimated to cost $45 million, followed by annual operation and maintenance costs of $558,000. The construction funds for the first phase, expected to cost under $8 million for seven miles of path, are coming out of federal transportation act funding . Park officials hope additional transportation act funding will be available for future phases of the project. 


You know, I biked all the way through Grand Teton and back last summer as part of my biker/hiker vacation through Grand Teton and Yellowstone. I felt about as safe as one can expect on those roads in Grand Teton and was happy that there was a shoulder at all. In Yellowstone, there often wasn't a shoulder at all (except for some small stretches here and there), and the upper loop has very narrow roads. Even there, I felt relatively safe, much safer than I do every single day biking in traffic in Washington, DC. Every day, I dodge cars, am forced to weave in and out of lanes, watch out for car doors opening up on me from any direction, dodge pedestrians lunging into the road from anywhere. The serenity I felt in the parks compared to that experience is 1 million percent different. I barely needed my breaks in the parks (except when going down a mountain pass and winds are gusting on you). Even the upper loop in Yellowstone, I felt relatively safe, despite steep and windy roads -- thankfully, the cars also are slowed down a great deal by the steep and windy nature of those roads. The only time I was genuinely worried was coming down Dunraven Pass toward Tower. It was an amazing ride, but I took no chances; I road as close to the middle of the road as I could, in part because it was so narrow, in part because I needed to dictate when cars would pass me, not the other way around (or else I would have risked going over a cliff). However, it was early morning, and there weren't many cars at all. In fact, it wasn't safety I was as concerned with as hypothermia. It was so cold, and going downhill so fast made it even colder. The drivers didn't seem to mind, the few that there were, a few talked with me at Tower Fall, amazed at the speed I was able to go and astounded we ended up at the same place not that many minutes apart. Anyhow, my point is that I felt that Grand Teton, especially, has roads that are biker safe by and large. The shoulders could be widened, and that would help, but by and large, though they are narrow, it's still possible to ride on them. I was actually really surprised to talk to a man working at the pizza place at Leek's Marina who said he was too scared to bike on the narrow shoulders. I thought, "My goodness; if you only knew that you could ride safely through roads a million times worse in the District (or if you want to see unsafe, try riding through Montgomery County, Maryland, which still scares me, though I do it with a mix of road and sidewalk)." That's to say, as an avid biker, one who fights with cars daily and loathes their dominance of the roads, I just am surprised that Grand Teton is the place to fight and win a plan like this. The other thing is that use of the bike path will depend strongly on its quality. If the bike path is bumpy or too narrow, those bikes will go right back on the road. I would. In DC area parks, bikes will use good bike paths; they won't use bike paths that are falling apart or don't absorb shock (especially those of us not plodding along so slowly on mountain bikes). So, a lot will depend on the construction of the path. I think a path is strange; as a biker, I'd prefer a bike lane to a path so long as cars weren't using it as a passing lane (which is why a wide shoulder would undoubtedly do the trick). My only near accident on the trip wasn't in the parks but coming into Jackson. There, the traffic was backed up, and I was passing dozens and dozens of cars on the shoulder. At some point, an RV was ready to move, but I was already just about past it (but not completely). It then lunged to turn right just as I was going by. I got so mad but just missed it by swinging out just far enough to my right. Those who saw it from a nearby store shook their heads and berated the RV driver for being crazy. The danger is always in urban driving or when there is a long line of cars who are not suspecting a fast moving bike on their right. As a biker, I have to take precautions to anticipate almost anything happening. However, for inexperienced bikers, that sort of thing can cause accidents. In the national parks, where there are so few turns, it's not really a problem at all, though. That's where accidents usually happen (cars making right hand turns). In any event, I found this announcement to be a little strange; I live in a very different world.

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