City mulls next stage of Gurley Overpass overhaul

Gurley Overpass in Gillette, WY.
Gurley Overpass in northeast Gillette.

City staff Tuesday night urged the Gillette City Council to be cautious and patient before making any additional decisions regarding the future of the Gurley Overpass.

Currently, the city is considering tearing down and replacing the existing overpass or building another bridge and either keeping or demolishing the old one, according to City Communications Manager Geno Palazzari.

During their April 27 budget meeting, the first of three sessions this year, the council appeared to be chomping at the bit to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later.

The cost of the process could increase moving forward; waiting could only make the bridge that much more expensive in the end, said Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King.

The council, however, does not know how much the project could actually cost, having only set aside $1 million each year from the Optional One Percent without a specific goal in mind for the last three years knowing the bridge would need addressing eventually, according to City Finance Director Michelle Henderson.

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“We know that we have to have a pot of money; we just don’t what that amount is,” Henderson said Tuesday. “We just said ‘we need to start setting aside money for a bridge.”

That amount is expected upon the completion of an ongoing study regarding the costs and logistics of either building another overpass at another location or tearing down and rebuilding the existing one, according to City Engineer Joe Schoen.

The study should be completed later this year, perhaps as early as July or August, Schoen said.

But the cost is only a small part of everything the council would need to keep in mind if they chose to start the process now, he continued, adding that the council would need to be careful moving forward, especially when it comes to funding the project.

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The city could certainly start the design process now with cash on hand from the Optional One Percent, but if they chose to pursue any federal aid later any designs would have to be scrapped to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), according to Schoen.

If NEPA gets involved, he said, the city would be forced to redo the design process, even if the outcome was exactly the same.  If that were to happen, not only would the whole process take years longer but all of the money spent from the Optional One Percent would essentially go to waste.

“I call it strings attached,” Schoen said. “That’s one of the big strings that are attached; if you go down the road too far, they could yank it back.”

He advised waiting to make additional decisions until the study is complete, at which time the council could revisit starting the design process.

In the end, the only decision made on April 27 was to continue the $1 million Gurley Overpass allocation from the Optional One Percent.