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Off-Road Vehicle Traffic Could Explode In Southwest Wyoming With Passage Of Bill

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By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter

Southwest Wyoming could become the next hot destination for off-road vehicle enthusiasts thanks to a bill that cleared its final obstacle with the Wyoming Legislature on Tuesday. 

House Bill 42 provides the legal conditions that would allow off-road vehicle to use an underpass to cross Interstate 80 near Evanston.

The Wyoming Senate passed it by a vote of 20-11 Tuesday. The House passed it Jan. 18 with a vote of 56-5, one absent.

The I-80 crossing in and of itself might not seem like much. But proponents of the bill argued that it will provide a vital link in a network for motorized trails that will connect that entire region of the state. And it will also give off-road riders and drivers access to networks that go deep into Utah and Idaho. 

The Next Big Thing

Off-road trail riding is a burgeoning sector of the tourism economy that Wyoming has been missing out on, proponents of the bill argued during previous discussions. 

Utah and Idaho have been reaping those benefits, and it’s time Wyoming joined the club, said Mark Tesoro, president of the Southwest Wyoming Off-Road Trails group (SWOT), during testimony about the bill before legislative committees. 

Increasingly, entire families have been planning vacations around riding ATVs, side-by-sides, motorcycles and the like along vast networks of trails, he said. By getting fully plugged into the trail system, Wyoming should reap a huge influx of visitors and tourism dollars. 

The long-term goal is to connect the trail systems with special off-road vehicle rights-of-way on streets in several communities along the way, Tesoro said. That will pull more people into local shops, motels and restaurants. 

Must Be Legally Registered

Some who objected to the bill worried that it could lead to abuses, such as people going off the trails and ripping across the open countryside. 

Proponents of the bill said it will promote only responsible riders. For instance, under the bill, vehicles on the trails would have to be registered, have license plates and be operated by licensed drivers. Such things as fully operational headlights, taillights, horns and turn signals would also be required. 

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