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Transportation officials look to add more space for truckers along highways

A truck parks at a newly unveiled lot near Laramie, Wyo.
Will Walkey
/
The Mountain West News Bureau
A truck parks at a newly unveiled lot near Laramie, Wyo.

News brief: 

The weather along Interstate 80 near Laramie, Wyo. can be treacherous in the winter. At times, a breeze will literally blow a big rig over. Now, truckers have more space to wait out storms safely.

Federal and state transportation officials unveiled new trucker parking lots at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this week. The event highlighted state and federal efforts to improve supply chains and driver safety. The lots add 200 parking spaces on either side of a mountain pass between Laramie and Rawlins, as well as climbing lanes and other minor improvements along the highway.

“People don't think about truck drivers until those goods don't show up,” said Shailen Bhatt, Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. “The spaces are for truckers to be able to rest in safety and also to be able to park in safety when the weather is not on their side.”

Lack of resting space is a major issue affecting the transportation industry. There’s currently just one safe parking spot for every 11 semis on the road. That leads to safety issues for an industry that travels billions of miles each month. Trucks also moved about 73 percent of American freight last year, according to the American Trucking Association.

“We know anecdotally that there are drivers that waste hours of their time every day trying to find a decent place for them to park,” said Sheila D. Foertsch with the Wyoming Trucking Association. “That affects their livelihood, it affects their frustration level, [and] it affects the supply chain when they have to quit early for the day just because they don't know if there's truck parking ahead.”

The $34-million project included a big chunk of grant money from the federal government. Bhatt said this project is one example of infrastructure improvements that people should expect in the coming years.

“Whether it's sidewalks into a small community, major bridge projects, interstate windings, transit [or] airports, we have $1.2 trillion of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that is going to projects and you're seeing them being built across the country,” he said.

Work began on the new lots in 2020. Bhatt added that he doesn’t view improving roadways and safety as a political issue, and said transportation is a binding part of life for most U.S. citizens.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.

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