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WYDOT is assisting communities by investing in pathways projects across the state

A bicyclist approaches a man seated on a bench on a section of the Sheridan pathway system
Wyoming Department of Transportation
A bicyclist approaches a man seated on a bench on a section of the Sheridan pathway system. WYDOT is offering grants from federal funds that are being used for various studies and to construct pathways in communities large and small across the state.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) is helping communities across the state with multi-use pathway and greenway projects as general interest in them increases. Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grants funds allow for federal monies to be funneled through the department that are then used for various projects in communities large and small.

“We kind of act as that pass through for the federal grants [and] we work with the federal government all the time,” said Jordan Achs, Deputy Public Affairs officer for WYDOT. “We kind of understand what they're looking for, what they want reported, things like that.”

TAP grants, in addition to several others funding initiatives distributed through the department, are aimed at improving the state’s transportation network. WYDOT’s guidance also assists local or county governments that may lack experience with these grants and to make sure that monies are used appropriately under federal guidelines. Once completed, pathway maintenance and upkeep are the responsibility of local communities.

“There's about 394 miles of pathways in the state [and] a lot of those are off our system, they're in those communities, but about 52 miles [share] a state right of way,” she said.

This mileage doesn’t include pathways that are constructed by local or county governments without the assistance of WYDOT or outside funds. Recent TAP grant awardees for fiscal year 2023 for pathways, greenways, or multi-use paths include the South Bypass Pathway in Buffalo, the second phase of a walking path in LaGrange, and pathway design projects in Lusk, Lander, and Powell. Plans are also moving forward to construct the Tongue River Pathway that would link Dayton and Ranchester on the north side of the right-of-way of U.S. Highway 14 and which would also be funded by a TAP grant.

“There is a growing desire for people to have these kinds of ways to access their communities beyond the traditional car connecting neighborhoods to common shopping areas, and things [that] can help create that sense of community,” Achs said. “They're definitely of interest especially in growing communities or areas seeing a lot of development.”

Teton County has made a push for the construction of pathways to connect parts of Jackson and the county to reduce the amount of driving, she said. Segments of the Yellowstone Shortline Trail, which is a partial rails-to-trails conversion initiative, would utilize existing pathways in the county to connect West Yellowstone, Montana via Teton Pass and Jackson to Grand Teton National Park. Additionally, plans are also in the works for the Great American Rail-Trail, a nationwide rails-to-trails initiative, to cross over 500 miles of the Cowboy State. WYDOT is working with the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office on plans for potential paths that may not be routed on abandoned rail beds. The plan is to have the trail completely routed off of roadways, even if sections of it are initially located on them.

The Wyoming Heritage Trail is currently the state’s longest rail trail at around 23 miles, connecting Shoshoni and Riverton. It’s situated on the former Chicago & North Western Railway’s Cowboy Line that extended to Lander. The Medicine Bow Rail Trail in Albany County, which was opened in 2007, has proven popular with outdoor recreationists and is the second longest in the state at approximately 21 miles.

Corrected: April 7, 2023 at 8:36 PM MDT
This story has been corrected to include the Wyoming Heritage Trail, which is the state's longest rail trail at around 23 miles, connecting Shoshoni and Riverton. The Medicine Bow Rail Trail is the state's second longest at approximately 21 miles.
Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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