WYDOT starts hauling operations on Snake River Canyon slide
by Wyoming Department of Transportation
May 21, 2011
WYDOT started hauling operations on a stable section of the landslide, which closed a section of US 26-89 near milepost 127 in the Snake River Canyon since May 16.
WYDOT hired Yellow Iron Excavating of Wilson to haul the debris. Yellow Iron is working on the Hoback side of the slide and is being careful not to disturb the middle section of the slide thatís moving and channeling debris toward the river. WYDOT may need to stop moving debris if any instability is noted in the stable sides of the slide.
"This is an effort to get a jump on the removal of the slide material without compromising the stability of the berms formed by the slide which now contain the movement of the slide toward the river," said John Eddins, District 3 district engineer. "Itís vital that we maintain the integrity of the berms to keep the slide from widening and possibly interacting with other slide areas to the east and west."
WYDOT crews are monitoring the slide movement on a daily basis. The center part of the slide continues to move, but a couple hundred feet of the moving mass remains above the road. Itís critical that the slide is not allowed to widen and reach the Blue Trails slide to the west and the Little Blue Trails slope failure to the east. If water and slide debris get to either, the road itself could slide, Eddins said.
"Once the entire slide stabilizes weíre going to go in full bore to get the debris out of there," Eddins said.
Yellow Iron, which was the low bidder, will then work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to haul the debris to disposal sites near Astoria and Alpine.
WYDOT is unable to give an exact timeframe of when the debris will be removed. WYDOT officials are working to reopen US 26-89 as fast as possible, but with changing weather conditions and unknown road conditions underneath the slide, itís difficult to give an exact number of days.
"Weíre doing everything we possibly can to get it open as quickly as possible and as safe as possible," Eddins said.
Once the debris is removed, WYDOT will look at the condition of the road to see if any additional work needs to be completed, Eddins said. The debris from the landslide could have damaged the road, but WYDOT cannot make that determination until the material is removed.
WYDOT also will install pipe culverts to handle the water flowing from the landslide area during and after the work is completed to keep the drainage off the road surface.
To keep residents up to date on the situation, WYDOT scheduled two public meetings. The first was held in Jackson on Friday and the second will be held at 1 p.m. today in Alpine at the Civic Center.
Communities and businesses in the affected areas are still accessible by the public. Summer tourism activities will not be affected and visitors and residents can still get to the places they need to by alternate routes. Most of US 26-89 in Snake River Canyon is open for travel. Motorists will encounter closure barricades about a quarter of a mile from either side of the slide area.
Northbound traffic on US 26-89 can continue on US 26 into Idaho north of Alpine Junction. That route passes through Irwin and Swan Valley before becoming Idaho Highway 31, which turns to the east through Victor and into Wyoming, where WYO 22 crosses Teton Pass into Jackson. Southbound traffic can reverse that route to detour around the slide. The alternate route adds about 36 miles to the length of the trip.
Vehicles weighing more than 80,000 pounds and all trailers, including boats and campers, will be prohibited on Teton Pass from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to facilitate daily commuters during the closure.