The Wyoming Department of Transportation will construct passing lanes, add truck parking and make other improvements on Interstate 80 in southeast and south-central Wyoming to make winter travel safer.
WYDOT will receive a $20 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant for an I-80 Winter Freight Improvement Project, which will add improvements along a 45-mile section of road between Laramie and Rawlins.
The project calls for the installation of truck passing lanes on 2 miles eastbound over Halleck Ridge and 3.53 miles westbound between Cooper Cove and Quealy Dome Road.
The project also includes installing Walcott Junction and Quealy Dome truck parking areas, which will each accommodate about 100 trucks. WYDOT will also install communication devices in that area, which will allow the department to provide traveler information messages to drivers and will supplement WYDOT’s Connected Vehicle Pilot Program.
WYDOT will use other state and federal funds in addition to the $20 million BUILD grant to complete the project. WYDOT anticipates starting the project as early as spring of 2020.
“Interstate 80 is vital to the state and national economies,” said WYDOT Director Bill Panos. “The proposed project will benefit the regional transportation system by promoting more effective truck traffic movement. The project constructs additional lanes in areas where trucks slow down because of steeper grades, allowing cars and trucks to pass and reducing driver fatigue.”
If the interstate closes, the additional truck parking will enable truck drivers to park safely while they wait for winter conditions to improve. If the interstate is open but conditions are poor, truck drivers can use the truck parking to wait out the storm.
The additional passing lanes will not only help with traffic flow, but they will also help prevent secondary crashes when the interstate reopens following a road closure.
“When the road reopens, additional crashes often occur because a high volume of waiting trucks and passenger vehicles flood the road, causing traffic congestion on slick roads,” Panos said. “By constructing passing lanes where steep grades compound these traffic congestion problems, truck crashes and truck delays should decrease.”
WYDOT’s freight plan shows that wintertime truck crashes on I-80 are about four times greater than during the summer months.
More than 2,600 traffic accidents, with 1,323 involving trucks, occurred along this 45-mile stretch of road from 2008-2017 at an estimated annual cost of about $52 million.
“Crashes often result in damage to the road,” Panos said. “These improvements will not only save lives but will also reduce road damage and ensure traffic continues to flow smoothly in the area.”