JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Town Council acted swiftly to enact protections for wildlife and motorists on Broadway through town. That’s not a misprint. We wrote “swiftly.”
A governing body that has never been accused of making decisions in a hurry, actually did just that. And they brought with them a state agency that moves with a lack of alacrity that makes the town council look like a caffeinated Barry Allen.
WYDOT gets blamed for a lot of things, some unfairly. Traffic foul-ups whenever and wherever they occur, snafu at the Y, construction delays, even spotty Internet coverage is blamed on something WYDOT did or did not do. One thing WYDOT is rarely accused of, however, is being anywhere near nimble in their reaction to a road “situation.”
But give the department credit (and the town council) credit. When Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation director Jon Mobeck made it his organization’s mission to begin increased wildlife protections in the valley with initial focus on reducing mule deer hits on Broadway, the ball got rolling. And Mobeck soon found he wasn’t pushing a boulder uphill.
Elected officials called a special meeting, after which Police Chief Todd Smith—an avid sportsman and wildlife enthusiast—ran with it. He did the legwork. His department had traffic counters out on Broadway the next day after the meeting. He himself observed and assisted a buck in getting across Broadway to Flat Creek for food and water.
“We are blessed with wildlife around here but we are killing our mule deer,” Smith said.
“We are not only killing a lot of deer, we are wrecking a lot of cars,” councilman Jim Stanford added.
Finally, the chief managed the impossible: he got cooperation from WYDOT who said it was on board with speed reductions on Broadway (as long as it dropped no lower than 30 mph) and could assist with signage, to be available in a matter of weeks.
“WYDOT just came on board and are in agreement with everything we proposed,” Smith told councilors Monday.
The posted speed on Broadway will be reduced from 35 to 30 mph between Flat Creek Bridge (near Staples) and Budge Drive. While other sections of Broadway were considered, Smith said the zone addressed was by far the deadliest to mulies. “Not that we don’t have wildlife crashes further south, but they pale in comparison in this zone,” he said.
Additional electronic speed signs will be added at each end of Broadway (the ones that tell you how fast you are going), as well as unique wildlife warning signs that are a little more jazzed up than the existing ones.
Mobeck was pleased at the cooperation of all and what could be accomplished when everyone works together.
“By no means is this the end of our efforts to mitigate vehicle-wildlife collisions,” Mobeck assured, “but this stretch on Broadway has had the highest concentration of mule deer collisions in the whole county for more than a decade. If we get people in the 30-35 mph range we are going to see a noticeable reduction in vehicle-wildlife collisions.”
Councilman Don Frank urged his peers to think about 30 mph all the way to High School Road, but was pleased with what he saw in the unanimous vote Monday to take immediate action.
“This is exactly the way the public process should work,” Frank said.