JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Some misinformation has been floating around since the news broke that the board of county commissioners (BCC) signed off on a cooperative agreement request to WYDOT concerning the connector road known as Tribal Trails. The letter, for instance, does not hand over the project to the state highway department. In an attempt to weed through the distortion, Buckrail has taken a closer look at what exactly the agreement means and, most importantly, how the public can stay engaged and be involved.
Currently, the Tribal Trails Connector project has not entered the formal “project charter” phase. This is where a public project is stamped official, binding, publicly vetted and ready to roll. As the project moves forward and the BCC formally initiates the charter process, there will be multiple opportunities for public input and involvement. The formal project charter will eventually require approval by the BCC and will be made public for comment and feedback. Once approved, the project charter will serve not only as the official project plan, but as a tool for mutual accountability between county electeds and the public.
Additionally, the second paragraph of Cooperative Agreement Request reads: “This request is made with the understanding that Teton County will have the ultimate say in the final design and implementation of this project.” That’s important. In the same paragraph, it is stated that the “priority will be to meet the needs of our community rather than the needs of WYDOT.”
According to county spokesperson Billy Kirk, this language was crafted intentionally and quite deliberately to make very clear to WYDOT that Teton County is by no means ceding local control of this project, and will not enter into any agreement that jeopardizes local control.
Following the June 12 letter to WYDOT, the BCC is waiting for a proposed Cooperative Agreement (Memorandum of Understanding – MOU) from WYDOT for this project. Consideration of the proposed MOU will be a public process, as are all contracts and actions of the board of commissioners. This will be an additional opportunity for members of the public to weigh in on the project and process before it begins.
There have also been some concerns that the request to consider a cooperative agreement could supersede the upcoming Traffic Demand Study, for which the county will be reviewing proposals beginning on July 10. Since the Tribal Trails project is in the very beginning stages, the traffic study will proceed as planned and inform the project, as outlined in the Integrated Transportation Plan.