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Like safe roads? Thank aggregates, gravel and hard workers

Crews from Evans Construction and HK Construction built a detour and opened Highway 22 in three weeks after a landslide destroyed part of the road on the night of June 7.

Workers with Evans Construction help pave a corner of the detour on Teton Pass on June 25, 2024. Cooper Thompson shovels and Justus Dudley rakes while Jessica Hillstead, crew mentor, operates the roller in the background. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

It took 58 employees from Evans Construction and HK Construction to get the job done on Teton Pass.

That’s not counting personnel from the Wyoming Department of Transportation and other federal, state and local agencies who worked to open Highway 22 on June 28 after a landslide destroyed part of the road on the night of June 7.

Skilled truck drivers, heavy machine operators, surveyors and paving crews were among the phalanx that constructed a detour around a gap created when the landslide carried about 200 feet of road away. For two weeks, they worked around the clock.

The effort saw one transport driver haul a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer up the closed highway — a 180,000-pound load on a route where the weight limit is normally 60,000 pounds.

Sixteen trucks carrying asphalt and weighing up to 81,000 pounds worked on one day of paving. When the detour’s base was being built up with 30,000 cubic yards of fill, a dozen larger trucks shuttled up and down the 2,284 feet above Wilson.

“We were all very excited,” when the company got the call about the emergency repair, said Scott Evans, general manager of Evans Construction. “We wanted to do something good for the community.

“In dealing with governmental agencies, it is extremely difficult just getting through the bureaucracy and all the red tape and all the specifications and whatever they have going on,” he said. But at the first meeting with officials on the pass road itself, “that concern went away almost immediately.”

During the three-week closure, traffic from Victor and Driggs, Idaho, into Jackson Hole merged with commuting drivers and travelers from Star Valley and Sublette County on one route into Jackson. Traffic several miles south of Jackson spiked at 21,821 vehicles a day on June 20. That’s 40% more than on the same day the year before, WYDOT reported this week.

That means there were about 10,910 vehicles going up the south Jackson highway and another 10,910 going down that day.

Crushed base, fill, asphalt and the workers who make and spread them are not on the minds of most people who zoom around on their daily routines. But they play an important role in keeping travelers safe and communities together, Evans said.

“Aggregates and gravel, it’s part of what makes their lives easier,” he said.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.