Grand Teton National Park Nighttime Speed Limit Reduction To Save Wildlife

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Grand Teton National Park (photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

(Billiings, MT – YPR) – Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) officials permanently reduced the nighttime speed limit to 45 miles per hour on a busy section of highway at night, effective today.

Section of Highway 26/89/191 affected by the permanent nighttime reduced speed limit

The affected section of Highway 26/89/191 is located about 4 miles north of Jackson, Wyoming and is open year round. In addition to being the south entrance to GTNP and park headquarters, it is also the road to the airport, to several private residences, and to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

GTNP spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles says the nighttime speed limit was permanently reduced from 55-to-45 miles per hour as part of the park’s road safety plan.  She says the reduction went into effect in November because Fall is the prime migration time for large mammals.

“We always remind visitors and folks traveling on park roads and throughout the Jackson Hole valley, especially in the Fall, that wildlife are on the move. They are out and they are everywhere,” she says. “They tend to be most active between dusk and dawn and to stay alert, drive slow, look for that eye shine and be prepared to see wildlife when you’re driving on park roads.”

On average, over 100 large animals are killed on park roads each year. In 2010, that figure was 162 large animals were hit and killed by vehicles.

Anzelmo-Sarles says speed limits of 45 miles per hour or slower have proven effective at mitigating the chances of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Other efforts include, the permanent installation of variable message signs to alert drivers of current wildlife behavior and road conditions; placement of digital speed limit signs; and wider striping on the roads to highlight the center and fog lines. She says the later is known as “visual friction” as it gives the appearance to the driver that the driving lane is smaller and can cause the driver to slow down.

Anzelmo-Sarles says National Park Service rangers, Wyoming Highway Patrol, and Teton County Sheriffs deputies also actively patrol Highway 26/89/191 and will enforce the new reduced speed limit.

“And it only takes an additional 6 minutes to drive that span of road at the reduced speed limit so those 6 minutes could save a moose,” she says.