City of Cody & WYDOT Discuss Safety Study of Big Horn Avenue

City of Cody & WYDOT Discuss Safety Study of Big Horn Avenue

Written by on February 8, 2022

W.Y.D.O.T. and the City of Cody meet today to “kickoff” the process of finding long-term solutions for pedestrian crossings on the ever-growing Big Horn Avenue.

Today (Tuesday, Feb. 8), W.Y.D.O.T. staff will meet with officials from the City of Cody. This meeting is “the kickoff” – the beginning of creating safe pedestrian crossings for Big Horn Avenue and adjacent communities.

The city and W.Y.D.O.T. will soon select a contractor to conduct the study. W.Y.D.O.T. recently completed a series of traffic counts for Big Horn Avenue. However, this study will be much broader and more intense.

The findings of the Big Horn Avenue study will be significant and designed to last – the best possible solution for the residents of Cody.

“They’ll be looking at the entire picture,” says Cody Beers, W.Y.D.OT. public relations specialist. “The study will account for Big Horn, Freedom Street, Cooper Lane, Depot Driver to Beacon Hill, all the current and future subdivisions in the area.”

In addition, the study will factor in the traffic flow of WY120 from Powell – something that didn’t need as much consideration when Big Horn Avenue was last redone in the 1990s.

“You’ve got a busy five-lane highway that ends right at Big Horn Avenue. And the route between Cody and Powell is a lot busier than it was 20 years ago.” Beers say.

Intersection of Big Horn Avenue and Freedom Street near Cody Middle School

Courtesy Mac Morey

There is no official timeline for the study, but it will likely take over a year – and at least $90,000 – to complete.

W.Y.D.O.T. has already budgeted the total amount for the study. Therefore, once a contractor is selected, they will begin immediately.

Tuesday’s meeting is not open to the public. However, there will be several public meetings once the participating agencies get closer to implementing a solution. Public meetings are a condition for any contractor selected by W.Y.D.O.T.

Park County School District #6 is not participating in this initial meeting, but Cody Middle School will be a significant point of discussion.

The urgency of a pedestrian crossing on Big Horn Avenue was thrust to the forefront after a Cody Middle School student took a “glancing hit” from a semi in January 2021. The student did not sustain serious injuries.

While there were initial calls for an immediate pedestrian solution, W.Y.D.O.T. issued a statement saying the department was continuing its focus on a long-term solution. Ironically, any short-term solutions might make crossing more dangerous.

“We would be concerned with installing an arbitrary at-grade crossing that would give a false sense of security to a pedestrian,” said W.Y.D.O.T. District Engineer Pete Hallsten, “especially with the five lanes that a pedestrian must cross, operating speeds of vehicles on Big Horn Avenue, the fact that Freedom and Robert streets don’t line up from the south to north, and the east-west orientation of Big Horn Avenue, which results in sight issues with sunrise and sunset.”

Beers says Park County School District #6 will be “heavily involved” in the process. Furthermore, the district will not be contributing any funds to the study or eventual pedestrian crossing – whatever form that crossing takes.

W.Y.D.O.T. and contractors will consider possible long-term solutions, including an at-grade crossing with a traffic signal or a grade-separated crossing, such as a pedestrian overpass. These are large-scale projects that would alter traffic patterns and the properties of adjacent landowners.

Cody Middle School sign

The study will account for all possible vehicle and pedestrian traffic factors on Big Horn Avenue. Therefore, the result will be the best option to keep traffic moving and pedestrians safe.

“This isn’t about finding good answers. It’s about finding the best answer,” Beers says.

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