SHERIDAN — There were times when Butch Jellis didn’t think the day would come.
In 1995, Jellis, the co-owner of the Wrench Ranch north of Sheridan, said he approached the Wyoming Department of Transportation and asked for a new interchange north of Sheridan for Interstate 90, citing that the existing exit was dangerous for motorists.
“We had a whole bunch of pushback,” Jellis said. “A lot of people said that it would never happen.”
It took years of cutting through red tape and gathering support from the community, but the golden shovels hit the dirt Monday, officially kicking off the beginning of the interchange project.
On Monday, more than 100 people gathered north of Sheridan to witness the groundbreaking of the new north Sheridan interchange.
The project will include the construction of a new, diamond-shaped interchange 1 mile north of the existing interchange. The project will also include the realignment of Decker Road, reconstruction of North Main Street and isolated reconstruction of both lanes on Interstate 90.
The event was attended by many local and state employees and legislators, including Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who spoke at the ceremony.
In his address, Mead said the project will not only promote safety for Sheridan residents, but will also serve as an aesthetic improvement to the northern entrance to Sheridan and Wyoming.
“We recognize that this is one of the top destinations for tourism … we want it to be a welcoming and safe place for this beautiful town,” Mead said. “This interchange provides that.”
Mead also said that the interchange will provide dozens of new jobs during the next three years.
WYDOT purchased 40 acres of land from the Wrench Ranch in order to build the new interchange. Dozens of stakeholders, both in the private and public sectors, worked together to make the project happen.
“This is a perfect example of a public-private partnership where we do have all of the stakeholders together,” said Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn.
Jellis said that Sheridan residents Tom Kinnison, the late state Sen. John Schiffer of Kaycee, state Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, and local philanthropist and landowner Neltje were instrumental in making the project possible.
“Without (Neltje’s) visions of how things could happen on this north end of Sheridan and the north end of Wyoming, we wouldn’t be having this talk today,” Jellis said.
Contractors for the project are High Country Construction, Inc. of Lander and Reiman Corp of Cheyenne. The project is expected to last more than three years and cost $46.4 million. It will be completed in four phases with a completion date estimated in October 2019.
Ronda Holwell, WYDOT public relations specialist, said that residents can expect to see a lot of “dirt moving” this year. Crews have started grading operations for the off ramps near the interstate.
Phase one of the project will occur this year and consist of grading and dirt work for the new interchange and Decker Road. WYDOT anticipates traffic impacts will be minimal.
During phase two in 2017, construction will continue on the new interchange structure. Crews will also construct new alignments on North Main Street, Yellowtail Drive, Industrial Road and Decker Road. WYDOT will use pilot cars and flaggers throughout the construction zone to maintain two-way traffic. Access to all businesses will remain open.
For phase three in 2018, crews will reconstruct North Main Street from Fort Road to Goose Creek, and perform isolated reconstruction, widening and surfacing on the westbound lanes of I-90.
Two-way traffic will be maintained in all areas.
In 2019 during phase four, isolated reconstruction, widening and new surfacing will move to the eastbound lanes of I-90.
By Mike Dunn|August 30th, 2016