Shoshoni, Wyoming Going Through Big Changes; Fast Lane Expansion Leading The Way

It's been a challenging time for Shoshoni, a town of 471 which sits at one of the busiest crossroads in the state. But there's a lot change happening and the significant expansion and renovation of the Fast Lane gas station is leading the way.

LW
Leo Wolfson

July 16, 20235 min read

Shoshone, Wyoming, may have fewer than 500 residents, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in Wyoming who hasn't stopped at the Fast Lane.
Shoshone, Wyoming, may have fewer than 500 residents, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in Wyoming who hasn't stopped at the Fast Lane. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)

SHOSHONI — The town of Shoshoni hosts one of the busiest crossroads in central Wyoming, a linking point for many visitors on their way to or from Yellowstone National Park.

Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith said the majority of people driving to Yellowstone from the east pass through the town that sees about 1.4 million travelers a year, based on Wyoming Department of Transportation traffic studies.

At the center of town and smack-dab at the crossroad of east, west, south and north facing highways, sits the Fast Lane gas station. The business serves an important economic role in Shoshoni, a town of 471 people. The Fast Lane employs 46 people and provides important tax revenue for the town that Highsmith believes is on the upturn.

“It has a large financial output for our community,” Highsmith said.

In some ways the Fast Lane is emblematic of Shoshoni’s role in Wyoming. The town even recently changed its official motto to the “crossroads of Wyoming,” emblazoned on new wooden signs welcoming those who enter it. 

  • An expansion at the Fast Lane in Shoshone hasn't impacted business as usual at the popular Wyoming crossroads stop.
    An expansion at the Fast Lane in Shoshone hasn't impacted business as usual at the popular Wyoming crossroads stop. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The Fast Lane in Shoshone has a huge snacks section.
    The Fast Lane in Shoshone has a huge snacks section. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The Fast Lane is a must-stop for Yellowstone visitors driving through Shoshoni.
    The Fast Lane is a must-stop for Yellowstone visitors driving through Shoshoni. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)

Life In The Fast Lane 

Over the past year, Fast Lane owner Tim Davis has significantly invested in his business, expanding its convenience store operations by adding a much larger store and a number of new gas pumps. The expansion also includes a canopy with the ability to service larger trucks.

The convenience store has a new exterior design with a Western motif.

“It’s been a facelift for the whole community to be proud of,” Highsmith said.

Davis said his inspiration was equally divided between a desire to serve his loyal employees, the residents of Shoshoni and to accommodate the local customers, tourists and other travelers visiting the state. He opened the Fast Lane in 1985 and has never looked back.

“It just felt like it was a way to give back,” he said.

Fast Lane employee and manager Monica Gabriel, a lifelong Shoshoni resident, said she remembers when the Fast Lane first opened and how excited she and her friends were.

“All these different candies and different treats,” she said.

Construction is still ongoing on some of the pumps outside the Fast Lane but work on the new diesel pumps and inside the convenience store is all completed.

“It is a little different because of the size of the store, people aren’t so cram-packed in,” she said.

Highsmith said the Fast Lane improvements have inspired other Shoshoni businesses to revitalize their businesses, even though there’s been a little grumbling from residents who have been asked to clean up their properties.

“We’ve got rules, let’s follow them,” Highsmith said. “Some people don’t like change.”

  • Fasrt Lane facade 7 15 23
  • A new island of pumps is being added at the Fast Lane.
    A new island of pumps is being added at the Fast Lane. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)
  • One of the upgrades at the Fast Lane is new pumps for gasoline and diesel.
    One of the upgrades at the Fast Lane is new pumps for gasoline and diesel. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Construction continues at the Fast Lane.
    Construction continues at the Fast Lane. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The Fast Lane is the place to be in downtown Shoshone.
    The Fast Lane is the place to be in downtown Shoshone. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The Fast Lane is the place to be in downtown Shoshone.
    The Fast Lane is the place to be in downtown Shoshone. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)

On The Rise 

The Fast Lane expansion is just one part of a larger effort to improve and revitalize Shoshoni and keep the town afloat, said Highsmith.

One old building was torn down in the downtown area and turned into a town plaza. A 3-on-3 basketball tournament recently took place in the town, drawing 1,500-2,000 people.

Other recent successes include land plotted for two large-scale home developments slated to be built soon, a new business park and a recently completed expanded sewer system. Next year, Highsmith said, a new Asian-American restaurant will open.

Another major economic driver for the town is the Wyoming Mushroom Farm, which hopes to employ 70 people by next year and is building housing for its staff.

Foremost on Highsmith’s list of goals is bringing in new residents and specifically teachers to Shoshoni. Many of the school district’s teachers currently drive in from other towns, he said.

“We’re trying to put in affordable housing that teachers can afford,” he said.

Although Shoshoni may have turned a corner, Highsmith acknowledges the town still has a long way to go. 

Many of the buildings on Shoshoni’s main street are vacant. From 2010-2020, the town lost 178 residents, according to the U.S. Census, but Highsmith believes the actual population loss was much smaller.

“I think (the total population) is between 570-600,” he said.

Highsmith believes Shoshoni hit an economic highpoint around 1980, a time when the town had nearly 1,000 residents and reveled in a booming oil, gas and uranium market. These industries will likely never be as prevalent as they once were in the Shoshoni area.

Also a challenge, Highsmith said, has been a lack of affordable housing options.

But the town has undeniable potential, only 20 minutes from the nearest Walmart and a bigger community, and even closer to stunning recreation such as the Wind River Canyon and the Boysen Reservoir.

By embracing growth and change, Highsmith believes Shoshoni can prosper into the future. It’s a goal he’s championed for at least five years, prior to his time as mayor while serving on city council.

Highsmith moved to Shoshoni as a child with his family in 1962. He moved away in 1989 but has lived in the town since 2007 and isn’t planning on leaving.

“It has a lot of potential for growth, a lot of people are interested,” he said. “We’re really making things happen in Shoshoni.”

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter