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Joint Transportation, Highways, Military Committee Focuses On Funding During Interim Session

Catherine Wheeler

The Wyoming Legislature's joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee met for an interim session in Gillette this week.

The committee focused Wednesday morning on the Wyoming Department of Transportation's (WYDOT) funding needs in regards to state highways.

Chief Engineer for WYDOT Shelby Carlson said the department doesn't have enough funding to keep the pavement in its current condition.

"We are losing ground on conditions statewide. Our goal at this point is just to preserve what we have so we are working on trying keep those good roads in good shape. But when we're doing that, we're not doing any improvements, no shoulder widening, it's just a surfacing type of project," she said.

Carlson said increased energy development is impacting roads like Highway 59 north of Douglas, the Moneta Divide, and development in southern Cheyenne.

Additionally, the committee spent part of the afternoon discussing the need for wildlife crossings across the state. WYDOT and Game and Fish officials conveyed the need for better funding for these projects.

House Committee Chairman John Eklund (R-Laramie and Goshen Counties) said the committee will propose potential funding sources. One option is a conservation stamp that could be paid by tourists and other outdoor enthusiasts and he said there are more ideas.

"One of them would be to add to the wildlife license plate account, and that would be donations from nonprofits and others. And then a possible donation for drivers' licenses are well as vehicle registrations, and that would be on a voluntary basis," he said.

The committee will also look at the state's public safety communications systems, WyoLink. WYDOT and law enforcement officials said counties will need support from the state to implement necessary upgrades to the system. Eklund said the committee will consider sustainable funding options later this summer.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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