Wyoming Dept. of Transportation Celebrates Big I80 Project
Wyoming drivers, especially truckers, are celebrating next week as the I80 Winter Freight Project (WFP) is officially unveiled. The project's culmination will acknowledge a $34 million series of improvements along the treacherous I80 corridor between Laramie and Rawlins.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 10 a.m. at the Quealy Dome parking area (mm 290).
The Quealy Dome parking area is one of two parking areas the WFP created to provide truckers more opportunities for rest and winter weather reprieve. The other parking space is at the Fort Steele rest area. Combined, the two parking lots provide 200 spaces for I80 truckers.
Andrea Staley, public relations specialist at WYDOT, said “With Wyoming being a rural state, we don’t have a lot of safe truck parking areas. Our big towns are spread out a lot further. We needed more spaces during winter closures.”
Other improvements from the WFP include truck climbing lanes; one at Cooper Cove and the other at Halleck Ridge/Elk Mountain, wildlife fencing, a new salt/sand storage building, and a 6.75-mile asphalt overlay at Halleck Ridge between Laramie and Rawlins.
The project began in Fall 2020, with a $20 million BUILD grant, with the total project costing $34 million. U.S. DOT’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program funds investments in transportation infrastructure, including transit.
“We had a lot of interest from The Federal Highway Administration because the grant was so large. It’s a big safety project. We're a huge trucking lane, so this was done for highway safety and our commercial drivers,” Staley said.
Aaron Spenny, WYDOT resident engineer for the project, said studies were done on the most affected areas impacting winter travel. The winter corridor from Halleck Ridge to Sinclair is the most affected on I80; WYDOT applied for the BUILD grant in 2018 to begin improvements. Simon Contracting was awarded the bid in 2020.
The heavy snowfall last year saw dozens of trucks stranded along the corridor during closures. WYDOT is putting the finishing touches on the project and is ready to celebrate.
“We’re nearly there– the parking lots are open for the winter season. We’re super excited; it's been a long project coming. We’re excited to see it being used,” Spenny said.
U.S. Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) reintroduced the bipartisan Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act in March for funding authorization to increase truck parking capacity and to improve existing truck parking infrastructure.
“Wyoming is home to three major interstates that carry thousands of tons of cargo a day. Without safe truck parking, truckers spend an unnecessary amount of time searching for a place to park – putting truckers and Wyoming drivers at greater risk for accidents,” Lummis said on her website.