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WYDOT Preserves Beauty of Togwotee Trail

Fri September 08, 2006 - West Edition
David S. Chartock



Landslide stabilization has been the biggest challenge facing the project team of the $100-million Wyoming Department of Transportation’s (WYDOT’s) Togwotee Trail project, according to Kaia Tharp, WYDOT’s Dubois, WY-based project engineer.

Also known as the Moran Junction-Dubois Road project, the goal of this 38-mi. project is “to provide a safe and efficient highway while maintaining and improving the surrounding environment, such as wetlands, wildlife movement and mitigation,” she explained.

Continuing, Tharp said, included in the safety goals for the project is the reduction in the frequency of landslides and wildlife-motorist collisions.

She explained that the Moran Junction-Dubois Road project is divided into four sections.

The first section, currently under way, is the Brooks Lake section. This section consists of 9.75 mi. (15.7 km) on the east side of the project from milepost 30.9 to milepost 40.65. Work on this $23.5-million section began in April 2006 and is expected to be completed in November 2007, Tharp noted.

The project’s $16.9-million second section is the Buffalo Fork section. It consists of 4.83 mi. (7.77 km) on the far west end of the project from milepost 3 to milepost 7.83. This part of the project is expected to begin in the fall of 2006 and be completed in June 2008, she added.

The third section, she said, is the Togowotee Pass/Fourmiles Meadows section. With an as yet undetermined cost, work on this section is scheduled to begin in October 2007 and be completed in June 2010. It will go from milepost 14.47 to milepost 30.90 for a total distance of 16.43 mi. (26.4 km).

Tharp said the fourth section, known as Rosie’s Ridge, will run from milepost 7.83 to milepost 14.47 for a total length of 6.64 mi. (10.7 km). This section’s cost has not yet been determined. However, it is scheduled to begin in 2010 and take two years to complete.

Tharp noted that “this highway was built 50 years ago and it has never undergone any major improvements.”

“On the current Brooks Lake project,” Tharp said, “one challenge has been traffic maintenance. Due to commitments made to the affected communities to mitigate the socio-economic impact of construction, WYDOT has enforced a maximum 15-day stop delay throughout each project.”

“If the delays are exceeded, the contractor, E.H. Oftedal and Sons Inc. of Miles City, Montana, faces fines,” Tharp added, noting “this is not a typical approach to construction.”

Another project challenge, Tharp said, has been maintaining two-way traffic while building reinforced fills. To keep traffic flowing as much as possible, the road was widened and the existing pavement was rotomilled and used as temporary paving over the dirt to making driving easier and safer for motorists.

“Landslide stabilization is an issue throughout the project,” Tharp explained. “There have been several slides throughout this corridor, and each one is addressed individually.”

“Geologists,” Tharp pointed out, “determine the staging needed for each slide and the contractor follows these determinations according to the special provision. If sheet piles and H-piles are needed prior to excavation, a pile driver is used.”

Tharp said she expected other project challenges to crop up, but their solutions will be developed when construction on the other sections are actually under way.

Included in the project is a marketing effort to mitigate the socio-economic impact on the surrounding communities, explained Sheri Howe, a WYDOT public involvement specialist based in Dubois, WY.

She added that regulations mandate that the marketing effort pertain to road construction.

This called for the establishment of a Web site (www.gotogwotrail.com) to provide road construction updates, information on traveling through the area, Web site links, a media room and construction photos, Howe noted.

She said there also is a toll-free phone number that provides construction updates and updates also are emailed to local businesses at least once a week.

WYDOT also conducted a pre-construction meeting with the contractor. A similar meeting will be held by WYDOT prior to the start of each section, Tharp said, adding that WYDOT and Oftedal also conduct weekly public meetings to keep the community updated on the progress of the Brooks Lake section of the project.

Howe said WYDOT also held several public meetings prior to the start of construction to address community concerns. These meetings resulted in the following committees: a socio-economic committee, a wildlife movement committee and a marketing committee. There also is an advisory committee, which consists of representatives of the community, WYDOT, and state and federal agencies.

Standard project work hours have been from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., including some Saturdays. Night shifts have worked from 5:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. to install pipe culverts.

Contractor-owned heavy construction equipment for the Brooks Lake section includes Caterpillar D8, D9 and D10 bulldozers; Caterpillar 14G, 16G and 14H graders; Caterpillar 966F, 980G, 980H and 988F loaders; a Volvo 180C loader; Caterpillar 330, 346 and 450 trackhoes; Hitachi 400 and 700 trackhoes; a Volvo articulated haul truck; a Caterpillar articulated haul truck; a Caterpillar skid steer loader; and a Sakai roller.

Heavy construction equipment rented from Wyoming Machinery of Casper, WY, includes a Caterpillar D6 bulldozer; a John Deere 750J bulldozer; a Hitachi 300 trackhoe; and a Caterpillar 976 sheepsfoot roller. CEG