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Study makes additional river bridge seem unlikely

Aug 30, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Fremont County commissioners are questioning if a new crossing over the Wind River in west Riverton will come to fruition following the completion of a feasibility study.

Some commissioners doubted the project would happen anytime soon, if at all, after two public meetings Aug. 15 that allowed a public review of a draft study by engineering firm Dowl HKM.

"Judging by the opposition at that meeting, I can see this is a very difficult one for me to support," commissioner Dennis Christensen said at the commissioners meeting Tuesday. "I don't see it progressing."

Commissioner Travis Becker noted the large number of protests about the proposal.

"At that meeting most of it was in opposition, 90 percent in opposition to any new crossing whatsoever," Becker said.

County government transportation department superintendent Dave Pendleton said the project has a low priority in his books.

"It's a long way from funding, and we have a lot bigger fish to fry," Pendleton said. He said the county has no funding for the project.

Becker echoed the message by the Wyoming Department of Transportation at the Riverton meeting, saying there is no state funding for the project set aside for the coming years.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman said the crossing remains an important endeavor.

"I think the benefits to Riverton will be greater than to anyone else," Whiteman said. "I'm interested in seeing where it goes in the future."

She said she hopes people don't dismiss the

project, even though it won't happen anytime soon.

Whiteman said the attendance at the meeting represented a side that sees the negatives but not the benefits.

"I think it was not representative of the county as a whole," she said.

The county commission is using Dowl HKM for the Big Wind River Cross Feasibility Study. The research will cost about $55,000 with 90 percent coming from a federal grant administered by the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

The goal is to analyze a variety of potential new routes for another bridge across the Wind River in the west Riverton area. The single route across the Wind River from Riverton is the north-south bridge that serves as Highway 789 and Federal Boulevard through town.

The next nearest crossing to travel south across the Wind River would be Blue Sky Highway through Ethete, followed by traveling on Highway 26 to the intersection with Highway 287 leading south to Fort Washakie.

Potential routes on reservation lands south of the river for the new crossing could involve Left Hand Spur Road to the east to Goes In Lodge Road to the west. Routes in between include Behan Lane, Miller Lane, Littleshield Road and Crow Avenue.

North of the river could potentially utilize roads including Railroad Avenue, South Major Avenue, Rein Road, Galloway Road and others.

The draft plan recommends a new crossing that would connect Goes In Lodge Road on the river's south side to South Major Avenue on the north end. The draft also includes recommendations for additional streets off Riverview Drive "to help offload traffic."

Kasey Jones, staff engineer with Dowl HKM and the study's project manager, said public comment on the draft document will close Aug. 31.

Jones said the comments gathered will help develop another draft document that will go to county officials and the City of Riverton for their review.

A final version of the study will result from the last draft review process, Jones said.

The study analyzes crash data and traffic counts on various roads in the Riverton area.

"Part of this study (and need for the new river crossing) is based on the ability of the transportation network to accommodate future population and employment growth in and around Riverton," according to the draft.

The study points to congestion that will worsen at Highway 789 and Rendezvous Road south of Riverton as growth continues.

"Building a new river crossing to connect the reservation roads on the south side of the Big Wind River to the City of Riverton's roadway network on the north side will provide a way to offload traffic from the currently congested crossing," according to the draft.

The draft document can be downloaded and commented on at www.dowlhkm.com/projects/bwrc/index.html.

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