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Highway to Yellowstone Gets Needed Makeover

Wed January 11, 2012 - West Edition
Jennifer Rupp


Cannon Builders pour the deck on Black Hawk Creek Bridge.
Cannon Builders pour the deck on Black Hawk Creek Bridge.
Cannon Builders pour the deck on Black Hawk Creek Bridge. The majestic Tetons are the backdrop for Oftedal’s excavation work. Oftedal’s fleet of excavators work on the digging and rock placement for a shear key used in slide stabilization. This 42-ft. (12.8 m) wide arch was built specifically for passing wildlife with a small channel down the middle for drainage.

Since the mid-1960’s, at least two million tourists have visited Yellowstone National Park each year.

Many of these sight-seers enter the park from the south, using U.S. 26/287 in Wyoming. In 2006, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) began a 38-mi. (61.2 km) rehabilitation project on this highly trafficked stretch of highway.

The project was divided into five segments, with a total of four contracts. Rosie’s Ridge, a 6.6-mi. (10.6 km) section of U.S. 26/287 from milepost 7.83 to 14.47, is the last of the five segments to be completed. Work on Rosie’s Ridge began in May 2011 and will be finished by July 2013.

This scenic stretch of roadway in Teton County lies between the cities of Dubois and Jackson. On either side, the highway is surrounded by forests — the Teton National Forest to the north, and the Gros Ventre Wilderness to the south. Yellowstone National Park is located about 28 mi. (45.1 km) northwest of the project.

Oftedal Construction Inc. is heading up the project out of its Casper, Wy., office. The work includes road widening, construction of additional passing lanes and parking areas, a bridge replacement and the construction of an arch culvert.

Oftedal specializes in highway and road construction, site preparation, mine reclamation, and dam and dike construction. The company was founded in 1964 by E.H. (“Ed”) Oftedal and his son, Bill, in Miles City, Mont. It now serves multiple states and employs more than 250 people.

Oftedal and a crew of about 100 employees are performing excavation and slide stabilizations. The crew has been staying in the Dubois area since the start of the job, boosting the local economy.

“This segment of the project requires four major slide remediations,” explained Kaia Tharp, WYDOT project engineer. “A large portion of the project was dedicated to the slide areas, and because of the challenge that they pose, WYDOT chose this section to be completed last.”

A total of 1,014,170 cu. yds. (775,434.4 cu m) of earth was excavated. All excess material is being moved onto two toe berms in conjunction with the slide remediations, along with 95,200 cu. yds. (72,790 cu m) of graded 1 to 6 in. rock.

The Black Rock Creek Bridge, a two-lane, 138-ft. (42.1 m) structure was replaced under subcontractor Cannon Builders Inc. of Blackfoot, Idaho. Cannon also replaced a 24-in. (61 cm) pipe with a 42 by 23-ft. (12.8 by 7 m) arch culvert to accommodate the crossing of large local wildlife, including elk, moose, bears and deer in this wilderness area.

The project calls for 296 cu. yds. (226.3 cu m) of concrete, and 42,000 tons (38,094 t) of asphalt.

Additionally, WYDOT worked with The Army Corps of Engineers for the replacement of 2.19 acres of wetlands that are part of the construction area.

HK Contractors Inc. of Idaho Falls, Idaho, is in charge of paving the roadway, including the new passing lanes and parking areas. The passing lanes have been placed intermittently along the 6 mi. to relieve traffic congestion.

To make way for the road widening, Wilcox Logging Inc., based in Rexburg, Idaho, was hired to cut trees along U.S. 26/287. Traffic control is in the hands of S&L Industrial of Cowly, Wyo.

U.S. 26/287 also is the home to a section of the TransAmerica Trail, a well-known bike trail stretching 4,254 mi. from Astoria, Ore., to Yorktown, Va. The TransAmerica Trail was established for Adventure Cycling’s celebration of the U.S. bicentennial in 1976. At that time, the organization was called Bikecentennial, a name many old-timers still associate with the TransAm Trail.

To accommodate the bike trail, 8-ft. (2.4 m) shoulders are being installed along Rosie’s Ridge. (www.adventurecycling.org)