By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
It appears truckers and travelers will find relief more often when traveling through Wyoming this summer with the reopening of state rest stops closed last year in the face of budget cuts.
Governor Mark Gordon on Thursday announced that nine of the 10 closed rest stops would re-open — at least temporarily — for the duration of the 2021 tourist season.
The nine rest areas include:
- Lusk on US 18
- Guernsey on US 26
- Greybull on US 16
- Moorcroft on I-90
- Star Valley on US 89
- Sundance on I-25
- Upton on US 16
- Orin Jct on I-25
- Chugwater on I-25
“With the summer season just around the corner, I’m glad we will be able to reopen these facilities to travelers,” Governor Gordon said. “We are glad to have this chance to find a temporary solution.”
According to a news release, the Wyoming Department of Transporation (WYDOT), the Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) along with the governor’s office will work together to secure a temporary federal funding source to allow the nine rest areas throughout the state to reopen.
“WYDOT is extremely grateful to Governor Gordon and Director Shober for identifying new federal funds to temporarily reopen our rest areas for the tourist season,” said WYDOT Director K. Luke Reiner.
The rest areas should reopen ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
Before Gordon’s announcement, there were some developments pointing to the reopening of the rest stops.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation late last month called for bids for janitorial maintenance at nine of the 10 closed rest stops.
In addition, companies that have previously provided janitorial services for the closed rest stops reported they were contacted about submitting bids for the work again.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation in June of last year closed 10 of its 37 rest stops because of budget cuts implemented by Gordon. The closures were expected to save the state $200,000.Rest stops were closed in Star Valley, Chugwater, Greybull, Lusk, Orin Junction, Sundance, Upton, Fort Steele, Moorcroft and Guernsey.
Many of the closed rest areas were along heavily trafficked, yet undeveloped areas and roadways, including state highways passing through Lusk, Guernsey, Moorcroft, Upton and Star Valley as well as smaller cities dotting the I-80 and I-90 corridors such as Chugwater, Sundance, Fort Steele and Orin Junction.
The move inconvenienced many drivers who were then forced to travel long distances between cities without access to public restrooms or a place to safely stop for the night.
LaCynda Fortik, an independent contractor that provided janitorial services for the Chugwater rest stop, said she was contacted within the past week about providing services again when the rest stop reopens.
Fortik said she was told the state obtained money to reopen the rest stops.
The calls for bids issued by the Department of Transportation mentioned providing services for all of the closed rest stops except Fort Steele near Rawlins.
Fortik said she was happy to hear that the rest areas will again be open after watching travelers stop to take bathroom breaks at the closed Chugwater rest stop and dump their garbage regardless of the lack of facilities or the chain-link barriers cutting off entry.
“They just dumped their garbage and used the restroom wherever they wanted or could,” she said. “It was pretty disgusting.”