Aerial photos show much of Teton Pass road collapse in Wyoming

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Much of a winding mountain pass road collapsed in Wyoming, authorities said Saturday, leaving a gaping chasm in the highway and cutting off a busy commuter link between the small towns in eastern Idaho and the tourist destination of Jackson.

Aerial photos and drone videos of the collapse show the Teton Pass road torn apart by deep cracks and much of the roadway completely gone. Part of the guardrail hung in the air and orange signal drums demarcated the dangerous zone. The road was closed at the time of the collapse.

The section that broke off first gained attention Thursday when a crack and drop in the road contributed to a motorcycle crash.

Geologists and engineers dispatched to the scene that day noticed “this crack and this blob started moving a lot,” said Stephanie Harsha, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s District 3. A paving crew temporarily repaired the road and traffic resumed that night.

But it was short-lived as maintenance crews were dispatched to respond to a mudslide a few miles away before dawn Friday, causing the road to be closed once again.

The teams then noticed that the damage on the roadway had become more visible. Workers trying to find a detour around that section left for the night, “and by 5 a.m. this morning WYDOT had discovered the road was completely broken,” Harsha said Saturday.

“We were very lucky that no crew was injured. “No equipment was damaged,” she said. “So now engineers and geologists are doing geological assessments on the pass. They watched it all day.

The Department of Transportation said via social media that the road “failed catastrophically” at kilometer 12.8.

It’s unclear how long it will take to reopen the road, a vital artery for people who live across the border in Idaho and work in the expensive town of Jackson, which is also close to the popular Grand Teton National Park.

Harsha said an alternate route between Jackson and the Victor, Idaho, area deviates by more than 60 miles (97 kilometers) and adds “a little bit to any commute.”

Governor. Mark Gordon signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency, which his office said would help the state access additional resources from the Federal Highway Administration to begin repair work.

In a statement, the governor said the Transportation Department was working on “a long-term solution to rebuild this critical road.”

“I recognize the significant impacts this closure has on Teton County residents, regional commuters and the local economy,” Gordon said.

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