A landslide undermined and took out a segment of Highway 22 between Wilson and Victor, Idaho, Friday night June 7. (WYDOT)
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UPDATE: This story was updated June 9 at 4 P.M. to include drone video footage of the slide area. Ed.

State agencies, local governments and Jackson Hole businesses are scrambling to resolve a cascade of problems after a landslide carried away a 30-yard section of Wyoming Highway 22 over Teton Pass, closing the vital commuter and commerce route for the foreseeable future.

“Everybody is mobilizing,” Teton County Commission Chairman Luther Propst said Saturday. “The county’s looking at camping options at the fairgrounds” for Idaho commuters who work in Jackson Hole. The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort also is examining camping options and St. John’s Health “will certainly have to scramble,” he said.

The highway connecting the Jackson area to Victor, Idaho, is closed following a landslide. (Wyoming Highway Patrol drone)

“The buzz is it will be closed for several weeks or months,” Propst said. Transportation officials were meeting with personnel from Gov. Mark Gordon’s office Saturday morning to coordinate “a multi-agency response to this situation,” Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesperson Stephanie Harsha said in an email.

The slide undermined the highway on the west side of the 8,431-foot high pass Friday night between Wilson and Victor, Idaho. The highway — a primary artery that much of the Jackson Hole workforce travels daily to reach less expensive housing in Idaho — carries an annual average of 7,351 vehicles a day, according to a 2021 Idaho traffic counter tally made east of Victor.

“Some of my other supers, they’re not used to the whole gig of driving around the horn and they want something to be figured out quick”

Greg Johnson, construction supervisor

The highway was closed at the time of the failure because a mudflow farther west had made the route impassable.

“The good news is no one was injured in the failure,” Propst said.

Highway crews were attempting to patch a crack in the road’s asphalt — a sign of the underlying instability — when the road gave way and slid hundreds of feet downhill, according to reporting by the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Commuters, tourists and commerce between Idaho’s Pierre’s Hole and Teton County, Wyoming, will have to shift south to a longer route through Swan Valley, Alpine and the Snake River Canyon. That diversion adds 62 miles and more than an hour’s travel time to a journey that normally covers 24 miles in 36 minutes. Total distance and time for a Victor commute to Jackson will now be 86 miles and an hour and 42 minutes.

Hoback backups

Closure of Highway 22 will add significant traffic from Jackson through the Snake River Canyon to Alpine, and the effects are already being felt. WDOT posted an annual average daily traffic count of 3,571 vehicles through the canyon in 2021.

“It’s going to turn into a mess, I think, when you combine all the Victor people and all the Star Valley people,” said Bob Hill, a Wilson resident who drove the canyon Friday. Even at noon, not a peak commuter hour, “it was pretty much car-to-car all the way down to Alpine and back.”

Greg Johnson, a construction supervisor who has lived near Victor for the last 30 years and commutes to Jackson Hole, drove home via the longer, southern alternative Friday evening. Southbound traffic at the Hoback roundabout was backed up “probably close to a mile,” he said.

The failure of Highway 22 over Teton Pass from Wilson to Victor, Idaho, began a few days before a catastrophic landslide forced WYDOT to close the critical route. (WYDOT)

“There were more vehicles going through than it’s designed to handle,” Johnson said.

Speaking from a cell phone while driving the long way to a Saturday shift in Jackson, Johnson said he’s learned to take some commuting challenges in stride.

“As a superintendent, half of my game is planning,” he said. “It gives me more time to plan. It’s a pain, but there are worse pains in the world.”

Others are less sanguine.

“Some of my other supers, they’re not used to the whole gig of driving around the horn and they want something to be figured out quick,” Johnson said. “The funny thing is, a lot of my workforce is coming out of Idaho Falls now; for them it’s only 10-15 minutes longer.”

Commissioner Propst called the situation “rapidly evolving.” WYDOT “is all over it,” he said.

The county will have an update first thing Monday when the commission meets at 9 a.m., he said.

“This demonstrates the risk of having so many of our local workforce commute over a geological unstable pass,” Propst said. “This certainly provides a very clear example of why we need a better balance between the number of jobs and the number of houses needed by people who do those jobs.”

This article was updated to correct the name of the Canyon between Hoback Junction and Alpine, and to correct a misspelling of Propst's name. - Eds.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for Pedrodiniz. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@pedrodiniz.com or (307)...

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  1. Between the State and Feds there is plenty of developable land to open for housing - put some out to bid and let the free market fix the housing supply and commute issue. Aim the development at low to moderately priced homes and problem solved. Govt solutions like a floating pier in Gaza an afgan withdrawal and this raid failure demonstrate why the private sector with accountability is always the best answer.

  2. I’m sure WYDOT and Teton County officials working on all options. But:
    1. Close the Hoback roundabout. (Only 1 in 10 vehicles head to Pinedale anyway). Use a human flagger to manage traffic through that bottleneck.
    2. Put fleets of START busses on both sides of the new Highway 22 chasm.
    3. Build a footbridge across the chasm (US military has these in storage depots)
    4. Shuttle Idaho side workers up to the bridge, walk them over, then shuttle them to work.
    5. Require all trucks, RV’s and busses to use Snake River Canyon route.
    Build a footbridge across

    Yes, this idea is inconvenient, but it should keep the westside workforce moving till a long term plan starts or till mid November.

  3. I hope this will engender serious consideration of building a tunnel. While it would be expensive, it is a long term solution. People who say it is too expensive, should take into consideration the economic impacts and psychological stress, to say nothing of the environmental damage done by over 7000 cars/day.

  4. That entire curve is built on fill material across the ravine/gully. My engineering estimate is that water built up on the east side of the road (where the trees are tall) and then softened the fill dirt under the roadway.

  5. What a mess. Glad nobody was injured. Great opportunity to use some of that bipartisan IIJA funding. We can just leave the road the way it is now; purchase two signs to place on either end of the chasm designating that stretch of highway -The Donald J Trump Scenic Byway-and be done with it. Saves the state tons of money while preventing migrants from slipping over our border. It would be a fitting tribute to all of the former administration's famous ESG policies and “landslide victories”; and if we also invest in the construction of a few more helipads at the Jackson Hole International Airport, the road closure shouldn't impact Teton County's donor class too adversely.