highways

This week the governors of Colorado and Nevada joined West Coast states in something called the Western States Pact. Its stated aim is to bring together states with a “shared vision for modifying stay at home orders and fighting COVID-19.” 

The U.S. now has at least three such regional collaborations. 

Wyoming Department of Transportation

I'm riding shotgun in Randy Okray's snow plow. He's the Gillette maintenance crew leader for the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT). Okray is clearing up Interstate 90.

Wyoming Department of Transportation

The Wyoming Department of Transportation is reminding residents to use extra caution around snow plows on highways.

Every year, road crashes injure millions of Americans, killing tens of thousands and costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. According to a new analysis, states in the Mountain West could be doing more to curb crashes.

This time of year the number of vehicle collisions with deer and other wildlife are at their highest, a problem that’s especially acute in parts of the Mountain West.

On Tuesday, officials in Nevada held a summit to discuss how the state can address an issue that each year results in more than 500 reported crashes, costs taxpayers more than $19 million, and kills an estimated 5,000 wild animals, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Lpangelrob via CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

The Wyoming Department of Transportation is currently working on its master plan that would cover the department's vision for the next five years. But in the meantime, WYDOT has released its list of the projects it wants to tackle in 2020. Wyoming Public Radio's Catherine Wheeler spoke with WYDOT director Luke Reiner about how the State Transportation Improvement Plan shows how the department is struggling with a lack of funding.

WaterArchives.org/Flickr Creative Commons

A legislative committee is brainstorming ideas for how to protect communities from emergency infrastructure failures, like the recent irrigation tunnel collapse in Goshen County that left 100,000 acres of Wyoming and Nebraska farmland without water and effecting over 700 farms.

A bipartisan bill is moving forward through the Senate. It specifically tackles the impacts of climate change on our nation’s roads and bridges. 

Wyoming Department of Transportation

A project to repair a slide on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, 20 miles from Cody, will be resuming work next week. The $5.54 million repair started last August after the road slid in April.

Cody Beers, a public relations specialist with the Wyoming Department of Transportation, said this road is very important to the state because it connects Wyoming to the North East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and the All-American Beartooth Highway.

pxhere

Highway deaths are up this year - more than 60 people have died on Wyoming roadways so far in 2019. This time last year, there were only 27 fatalities.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A massive winter storm that will continue overnight has dumped over a foot of snow in some places and drifts even higher. Local law enforcement agencies said snow accumulations, icy roads and strong winds have contributed to a number of accidents and many communities are asking residents to stay off the roads.  

Chris Jones of the National Weather Service in Riverton said the storm lived up to expectations with the storm focused on the eastern half of the state. 

Wyoming Highway Patrol

 

 

Wyoming experienced 16 highway fatalities in January. Although fatalities have been declining overall, that's a relatively high number to start the year off with according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol. There was a total of 108 highway fatalities in 2018. WYDOT and the Highway Patrol are urging drivers to practice safe driving, especially during winter months.

WYDOT

A crash on Interstate 80 Wednesday morning has left westbound lanes closed between Rawlins and Laramie. US 30 north of Laramie and westbound lanes of I-80 between Laramie and Cheyenne were also closed to help with truck traffic and congestion.

The National Guard

Driving many of the highways of the Mountain West, it's common to be a lone car surrounded by semi-trucks. But that could change. The trucking industry is facing a record shortage of drivers right now.

Bob Costello is the Chief Economist at the American Trucking Associations. He said if current trends hold,the shortage of drivers could surpass 174,000 by 2026.

"If you're short bottled water what happens to the price of bottled water? It goes up," Costello said.

Colorado will be the first state in the country to test out so-called "smart pavement" on a stretch of highway this year.  The goal of these high tech roads is to make drivers safer.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is partnering with Integrated Roadways to install a half mile of high-tech road panels on a mountainous stretch of highway just outside of Denver later this year. Peter Kozinski is the director of CDOT’s $2.75 million “smart pavement” pilot project.

Wyoming Secretary of State's Office

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation will designate a 19 mile stretch of Highway 28 in Fremont County as the "Wyoming Women's Suffrage Pathway."

Corinna Riginos

Mountain West states like Wyoming and Montana are high risk for wildlife-vehicle collisions. These accidents result in expensive damages and sometimes even death for both wildlife and drivers. One group of scientists found an unlikely solution.

Highway 30 next to the Kemmerer Mine
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

In this past budget session, Wyoming’s state legislature funded a $30 million project that would benefit a coal mine that’s owner may soon go bankrupt. Westmoreland Coal Company is over a billion dollars in debt and has mentioned the possibility of bankruptcy in this past quarterly report. State legislators approved the sizable project, which would invest money relocating the highway U.S. 30 to accommodate a mine expansion.

The 100 Deadliest Days for car and truck crashes starts Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. It’s when fatalities spike the tally, leading to more than 1,400 deaths in the Mountain West.

Wikipedia Creative Commons, by Greg Younger

According to a new analysis from the website SafeWise, an online resource that provides information on safety for communities, Wyoming ranks as the most dangerous state for driving in snow.

The Wyoming State Historical Society has published a new book about the controversy and conspiracy that surrounds Interstate 80 and its dangerous past. The book is called Snow Chi Minh Trail: The History of Interstate 80 between Laramie and Walcott Junction.

The 77 mile stretch of interstate is considered especially notorious for its tragic history. The book’s title refers to the mountainous roadway used by North Vietnamese soldiers to reach South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming’s stretch of Interstate 80 is notorious for dicey weather conditions and heavy truck traffic. But it’s also a great place to study how to make driving safer, and that’s why it’s the testing site for a collaboration between the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the University of Wyoming.

 

287 Lander Southeast
WyDOT

Traffic got back to normal yesterday, according to Wyoming’s Department of Transportation. Officials reported historic levels of traffic Monday, the 21, following the solar eclipse or a 68 percent increase of overall traffic compared to the five-year average for the third Monday in August — much of that concentrated in central, western, and southern Wyoming.

Doug McGee, public affairs manager for WYDOT, said visitors started entering the state in larger numbers last Wednesday, picking up each day leading to the eclipse.

Wyoming Department of Transportation

Heavy eclipse traffic in Wyoming caused slower travel than usual. Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Doug McGee said on Sunday alone traffic counts increased by more than 27 percent compared to the five-year average statewide. But certain areas saw exponential increases. For example, north of Laramie on U.S. 30-287 traffic increased by 214 percent on Sunday according to WYDOT.

Wyoming Public Media

Wyoming’s junior senator, John Barrasso, is now chairman of the committee tasked with crafting President Donald Trump’s call for a massive infrastructure proposal. Trump wants to rebuild roads, bridges, railways and airports across the country. 

Senator Barrasso is known as a penny pinching conservative, but when it comes to transportation he thinks Washington has been the one pinching Wyoming pennies.

Wyoming Game And Fish Department

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, collisions between wildlife and vehicles have been on the rise in recent months.

Doug Brimeyer is the Deputy Chief of Wildlife for the Game and Fish and he says after so many winter storms, the deep snow is limiting winter forage, and so animals are being forced to look for food at lower elevations. Brimeyer said it’s easier for animals to travel where the snow has been plowed back, but that big snow banks on either side of the road, especially in parts of western Wyoming, can trap them.

Mike Wood

A blizzard in the Beartooth Mountains outside Cody, trapped snow plow drivers and even the tow truck that came to pull them out. An amazing rescue saved one plow truck driver who spent all night in the cab of his plow. He survived deadly cold and wind.

In Cody on Monday morning, just as temperatures rose above freezing for the first time in four days, blinding blowing snow trapped a big backhoe in a drift, and it had to be pulled out with another rig.

Wyoming Highway Patrol

High winds around the state have forced state officials to close several roads to light, high profile vehicles. Some of the road closures include portions of I-25 between Cheyenne and Wheatland, and I-80 between Laramie and Rawlins.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol say it has investigated at least 80 crashes around the state since Monday, many of those involving vehicles that have blown over.

WYDOT

Avalanches can be dangerous and shut down highways on many of the roads going in and out of the Jackson area, especially on Highway 191 through Hoback Canyon. But in the last few years, the Wyoming Department of Transportation has been installing new technology there that’s helped control the problem.

Avalanche technician Jamie Yount said in 2013, they installed the first remotely controlled avalanche exploders in North America. He said the new equipment now allows WYDOT to trigger avalanches on their own schedule and on a closed highway.

USFWS Mountain Prairie

A scientist says more than 6,000 deer are hit and killed on Wyoming roads each year, causing more than $50 million in injuries and damage to cars and wildlife. One scientist is studying the new nighttime speed limits to see if they really work.

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