By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
While it’s never a good idea to ignore signs and gates indicating closed roads during winter in Wyoming, the state Department of Transportation does have a program that allows limited travel past closed gates in select cases.
The program began in 2010 as Wyoming Authorized Travel, but was revamped in 2020 to Wyoming Travel Authorization Program (W-TAP).
“People in Wyoming really value rural living and want to live, you know, outside of town,” Wyoming Department of Transportation Deputy Public Affairs Officer Jordan Achs told Cowboy State Daily. “They might not (be living) where the gate is, they might be just past it.
“We wanted people to be able to go home and tend to their livestock and their livelihoods. So this was kind of birthed from that.”
Wyoming travelers can apply for up to seven segments of Wyoming Authorized Travel, allowing people to chart different routes of approach to get to and from specific destinations, like home or work.
It’s also possible to sign up for more than seven WAT segments by emailing email@example.com. The email should include details about the reason for the additional segments.
Road Must Be Safe
Travel authorizations will be issued only when a particular segment of closed road is safe for travel, Achs said. They also remain at the discretion of the Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper manning a particular gate.
“An accident may have happened,” Achs said. “Or there could be some other situation that makes the road unsafe to travel.”
Blowing past a closed gate without a travel authorization is a really bad idea, as two incidents in March 2021 chronicled by Cowboy State Daily show.
In one instance, a California man driving a Mini Cooper tried to navigate Interstate 80 during a blizzard.
The Mini Cooper became stuck on the interstate and was hit by snowplow drivers, gridlocking cleanup activity for four hours and causing a major traffic snarl that state officials estimated cost thousands of dollars.
A few days after that, a Montana resident tried outrunning a Wyoming Highway Patrol vehicle on I-80 on a desolate stretch of highway where snow drifts were still more than 5 feet high.
The motorist collided with a snowbank after exiting the highway, after which police arrested him on multiple charges, including reckless driving, reckless endangerment, and travel on a closed road.
Wyoming Authorized Travel Not Restricted To Residents
Travelers don’t necessarily have to be a Wyoming resident to qualify for Wyoming Authorized Travel. It’s open to all motorists, but requires justification as to why the driver needs access to a section of a closed roadway.
The Rolling Closure Authorization program, meanwhile, is for Wyoming residents.
This authorization allows motorists who have signed up for the program to drive on roads that are closed not necessarily because they’re impassable, but because resources like parking and hotel space is at capacity.
Wyoming has many small towns along heavily trafficked roads that have limited resources, Achs said. The rolling closure ensures motorists don’t get stranded somewhere without adequate resources.
A Rolling Closure Authorization could be appropriate for someone who is just passing through an area with no plan to stop or spend the night.
Sharing Not Permitted
Authorizations cannot be shared with family members or friends, or anyone else, Achs said. Each person who operates a vehicle during the authorization has to be signed up for the W-TAP program.
The system will deliver travel authorizations to an email address, if provided. Users also can check the Wyoming 511 mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android phones, or they may call 855-WAT-DIAL if they have a valid W-TAP ID.
The W-TAP account also may be accessed online at https://w-tap.wyoroad.info/w-tap/.