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Air Force Reserve Lands C-130J Super Hercules on Highway Near Rawlins

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Air Force Reserve Command kicked off a week-long exercise, Rally in the Rockies 2021,  by landing a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft on the highway near Rawlins, Wyoming, Sept. 13.

The highway closed early in the morning to ensure the aircrew could safely practice recovering personnel without access to a runway within simulated enemy territory.

This was one of many training scenarios scheduled for Sept. 13-16 across Colorado and Wyoming, involving more than 12 Reserve and National Guard units. Units are tasked with delivering critical cargo and personnel to U.S. Forces located in simulated contested areas.

“The Rally in the Rockies exercise ensures the Air Force Reserve and National Guard can provide an instantaneous surge capacity across most mission sets to strengthen our active duty counterparts,” said Maj. Nick Hainsfurther, 913th Operations Support Squadron pilot and lead exercise planner.

“With the help of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, we were able to successfully demonstrate our versatile combat airlift capabilities,” he said.

The 913th Airlift Group based out of Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, served as the lead planning unit in the mobility-focused exercise. Reserve Citizen Airmen crafted the scenario and aligned logistics to ensure each unit could focus on training.

In order to effectively accomplish combat operations, current scenarios assume traditional bases will be immediately threatened.

The exercise required various units to come together to deliver cargo, paratroopers, artillery, task force resupply and to conduct personnel extraction. The scenario was designed to test the interoperability of Reserve and National Guard units to execute Multi-Capable Airmen missions in challenging, contested scenarios.

“This is an exercise evolution of the Rally in the Valley 2020 exercise conducted in West Virginia,” said Maj. Christopher Acs, 327th Airlift Squadron pilot and exercise planner. “Our efforts will prepare Reserve and National Guard units to execute at the speed and range required to take on near-peer adversaries. Additional training included combat airlift as well as multi-capable mobility Airmen who are able to refuel and re-arm aircraft in austere locations with minimal support.”

Hainsfurther added that exercises such as RitR21 are critical to ensuring Reserve forces can project the Joint Force when called upon, enabling strategic depth for the future fight.

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UW Author Discusses His Book: “Snow Chi Minh Trail: A History of Interstate 80”

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By Kayne Pyatt, Uinta County Herald

EVANSTON — “I was born and raised in Green River and attended the University of Wyoming so I have spent a lot of time on Interstate 80; and being stuck in Laramie because of weather conditions.  That 77 miles between Rawlins and Laramie is a nasty stretch of road,” University of Wyoming Archivist John Waggener told the audience at the Uinta County Museum’s brown bag lunch last month.

Waggener was the keynote speaker at the August lunch series to discuss the research in his book, titled “Snow Chi Minh Trail: A History of Interstate 80 between Laramie and Walcott Junction” (50th Anniversary Edition). Waggener said the history behind the development of I-80 became a personal interest due to having traveled that stretch of miles many times. 

In his research, Waggener found that the Wyoming Highway Commission had assumed that the Interstate would just follow U.S. 30 but the Federal government had different plans.  The feds, Waggener said, wanted to cut off approximately 20 miles on the journey by using a different route.  The route the Feds planned would bypass communities and had serious winter conditions.

From 1956 through 1959, the I-80 vs. US 30 debate took place in the U.S. Senate.  It even continued up until 1973.  Senator Gayle McGee fought long and hard with the Federal Bureau of Public Roads but the Wyoming Highway Commission lost the debate. 

An interesting fact, Waggener shared, was that during the debate in the 1950s, Wyoming Highway Department set up stations on the highway and asked motorists if they would rather save 20 miles on their journey or be able to stop in towns along the way. Ninety percent responded that they would rather save the 20 miles. 

Since the Interstate highway is federal and motorists from all over the country travel it on their way to somewhere else, the thinking was that saving the mileage was most important, Waggener said, and added that the trucking and bus industries had a powerful lobby with the Senate. 

A lot of compromise routes were proposed; one going next to Elk Mountain and another to join I-25 from Casper at Laramie but Waggener said, “The feds had their own plan.”

Waggener said for years there was a myth that Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, had something to do with choosing the route.  Lady Bird had come to Wyoming in 1965 for the dedication of Flaming Gorge Dam and the myth was that she told them to put the highway next to Elk Mountain as part of her highway beautification project. 

“However,” Waggener said, “Lady Bird Johnson was never in that area and the route for I-80 was proposed in 1955, ten years prior to her visit. So we can put that myth to bed.”

Construction began on I-80 the summer of 1966 and it took four years to build the 77 miles between Laramie and Walcott Junction.

On Oct. 3, 1970, a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting was held at Arlington with 400 people in attendance. Motorists traveling from a football game at UW were a captured audience due to the ceremony held in the middle of the highway. 

Four days after the ceremony, I-80 was closed due to winter weather. Waggener said, “The people of Wyoming could have said, ‘We told you so!’”

Waggener used the name “Snow Chi Minh Trail” because Wyomingites called it that. He found a story in the Rawlins Daily Times dated Oct. 12, 1970, referencing the U.S. bomber raids on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the description of the weather there that matched the weather on I-80 in Wyoming which he thought may have been the origin for people in Wyoming giving the 77 miles of I-80 the name.

When journalist Charles Kuralt traveled I-80 in Wyoming for a feature story in January of 1972, he called it the worse road in the U.S.  In Kuralt’s book “On the Road,” he mentions the Valentine’s Day massacre, a major pile-up of motorists on I-80, where he and his photographer took an injured woman in their car to the hospital in Laramie.

Waggener continued the history of I-80 in Wyoming with a discussion of the creation of snow fences to control the snow drifts in order to maintain travel. Different styles of fences were used and none were sufficient to stop the massive amounts of drifting snow due to excessive wind. There were 24 areas with major problems with drifting snow and wind.

WYDOT had never dealt with anything like this before so they enlisted the help of the Forest Service. Together they researched with scale models to see which style of fence would work.  Finally, in 1971 they came up with what is known and used around the world as the Wyoming fence. That 12-foot-high snow fence is still being used today.

“The Wyoming fence should be our icon, like the cowboy. The Union Pacific was putting up snow fences within weeks of our becoming a territory in 1868,” Waggener said.

The next problem WYDOT faced was how to control traffic when roads needed to be closed.  From 1970 through 1973, hundreds of motorists had been stranded on the highway. WYDOT’s first solution was to have personnel stand out on the highway at the closure point waving a stop sign, which was a waste of manpower and unsafe.

In 1973, WYDOT installed the first gate at Laramie and Walcott Junction. From 1991 through the present day, drop down gates and overhead information signs were installed. Variable speed limit signs were placed on the highway in 2008 and expanded in 2010. WYDOT also placed sand sheds across I-80 and established a mission control center in Cheyenne that manages the signs, electricity, and data.

“History is the present as well as the old history. What will be the future for I-80? Increased traffic? A recent study showed that 60% of all traffic on I-80 is commercial trucks. WYDOT is building more parking lots on I-80 and braking lanes for trucks in order to manage safety,” Waggener said. “A UW professor is currently working on a computer program that could connect communication between all trucks on the highway.”

Waggener wrapped up his presentation, “Thank you for coming. Be safe and enjoy wonderful Wyoming.  By the way, the proceeds from the sale of my book go to the Wyoming Historical Society and to the Uinta County Museum.”

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Rock Work Getting Underway In Wind River Canyon

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An $8.78 million slide stabilization/rock scaling project is scheduled began Tuesday, alongside U.S. Highway 20/Wyo. Highway 789 through the Wind River Canyon.

Prime contractor Oftedal Construction Inc., of Casper, started hauling equipment into the area — located between Shoshoni and Thermopolis — on Monday.

“The contractor plans to start slide stabilization work, with rock scaling, near the Upper Wind River Campground and the canyon tunnels,” said Wyoming Department of Transportation project engineer Jordan Erz of Worland.

Erz said the state campground will remain open for public use at all times during slide stabilization efforts.

Rockfall scaling locations in Wind River Canyon include milepost 116.3 (highway tunnels), mileposts 116.79 to 116.82 (north of the tunnels/just south of the Fremont/Hot Springs county line), mileposts 118.12 to 118.18, and mileposts 120.41 to 120.61 (3 miles north of the county line).

“The contractor should only be working one of these sections at a time unless unforeseen circumstances change this schedule,” Erz said. “Traffic should expect 20-minute delays, with one-way traffic when everything is clear for falling rocks. The contractor expects these areas to take a month to manually clear loose rocks from the canyon wall ledges.”

The Wind River Canyon slide stabilization project includes slide repair, grading, slide stabilization rock (SSR), manual rock scaling, rock fall mitigation and other work on U.S. 20/Wyo. 789 from milepost 115.9 through 123.12 inside the canyon.

Contract completion date is Nov. 30, 2022.

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Wyoming Highway Projects Continue To Delay Traffic Across The State

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Those thousands of visitors making their way to the state’s top tourist destinations may be getting a break home, but they won’t get much in the way of a break from highway construction delays this week.

Construction projects continue at full speed across the state, with dozens of projects on Wyoming’s roads creating the potential for slowed and stopped traffic, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s road condition website.

On Interstate 80, delays are expected with a bridge replacement project near Hillsdale, while pavement marking projects in Laramie county will also cause delays on the highway west of Cheyenne. Another bridge rehabilitation project will cause delays near Laramie.

Continuing construction on a project to expand the parking lot at Fort Steele will continue to delay traffic west of Laramie, and a construction project near Elk Mountain will delay traffic there as well.

On Interstate 25, bridge rehabilitation projects are expected to cause delays between Cheyenne and the Colorado border, as well as south of Chugwater, while delays of up to 20 minutes are expected south of Kaycee for a paving project.

On Interstate 90, a bridge repair project east of Moorcroft is expected to create some traffic delays.

A number of projects are also underway on state and federal highways. Work causing delays in travel can be expected in the following areas:

U.S. Highway 14/16/20 west of Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes;

Wyoming Highway 120 northwest of Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes;

Wyoming Highway 296 northwest of Cody, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 14A between Cody and Powell, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 14A near Powell, delays of up to 20 minutes;

U.S. Highway 14A near Byron, expect delays; 

U.S. Highway 310/Wyoming Highway 789 near Cowley, delays of up to 20 minutes with stopped traffic;

U.S. Highway 14A/310/Wyoming Highway 789 near Lovell, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 16/20/Wyoming Highway 789 near Worland, delays of up to 20 minutes;

U.S. Highway 20/Wyoming Highway 789 near Shoshoni, delays of up to 20 minutes;

U.S. Highway 287 northwest of Lander, delays of up to 20 minutes;

Wyoming Highway 131 in Sinks Canyon, delays of up to 15 minutes;

U.S. Highway 287/Wyoming Highway 789 southeast of Lander, delays of up to 15 minutes;

U.S. Highway 26/287 northwest of Dubois, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 26/287 near Moran Junction, delays of up to 20 minutes;

U.S. Highway 189/191/26/89 south of Jackson, delays of up to 20 minutes between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.;

U.S. Highway 89 near Thayne, delays of up to 20 minutes with stopped traffic;

Wyoming Highway 372/374 west of Rock Springs, delays of up to 10 minutes with stopped traffic;

U.S. Highway 16 near Ten Sleep, delays of up to 20 minutes;

U.S. Highway 16 between Ten Sleep and Buffalo, delays of up to 15 minutes with stopped traffic;

U.S. Highway 20/26 west of Casper, delays of up to 20 minutes;

U.S. Highway 20/26/87 near Casper, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 20 east of Lusk, delays of up to 15 minutes with stopped traffic;

U.S. Highwy 85 between Lusk and Lingle, expect delays;

U.S. Highway 85 near Cheyenne, expect delays, and

Wyoming Highway 211 northwest of Cheyenne, expect delays.

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Wyoming Road Construction Update: Tuesday, June 22, 2021

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Hurry up and wait remains the rule for a number of Wyoming’s highways as the state’s road construction season continues in full swing.

According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s road condition website, numerous projects are underway that could slow travelers across Wyoming this week.

On Interstate 25, a bridge rehabilitation project between Cheyenne and Chugwater is expected to cause some delays, while a paving project south of Kaycee will slow traffic and create delays of up to 20 minutes.

Delays are also expected on Interstate 90 east of Moorcroft because of bridge repair work.

On Interstate 80 a bridge replacement near Hillsdale east of Cheyenne is expected to cause some travel delays, as is a pavement marking project west of Cheyenne. A construction project west of Laramie will narrow travel to one lane in each direction and delays are expected to result from another construction project near Fort Steele. Delays are also expected to result from a construction project near Elk Mountain and west of Rock Springs.

A number of projects are also underway on state and federal highways. Work causing delays in travel can be expected in the following areas:

Wyoming Highway 296 northwest of Cody, expect delays;
Wyoming Highway 120 northwest of Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 14/16/20 in Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;
Wyoming Highway 120 south of Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 14A between Cody and Powell, expect delays;
U.S. Highway 14A east of Powell, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 14A/310/Wyoming Highway 789 northeast of Powell, expect delays;
U.S. Highway 310/Wyoming Highway 789 north of Powell, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 16/20/Wyoming Highway 789 north of Worland, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 16/20/Wyoming Highway 789 near Worland, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 16 east of Worland, delays of up to 15 minutes, stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 16 near Ten Sleep, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 26/287 near Moran Junction, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 26 northwest of Dubois, expect delays
U.S. Highway 189/191/26/89 south of Jackson, delays of up to 20 minutes between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.;
U.S. Highway 189/191 southeast of Jackson, delays of up to 10 minutes;
U.S. Highway 89 south of Alpine Junction, delays of up to 20 minutes with stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 20/Wyoming Highway 789 near Shoshone, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 289 north of Lander, delays of up to 20 minutes with stopped traffic;
Wyoming Highway 372/374 west of Rock Springs, delays of up to 10 minutes with stopped traffic;
Wyoming Highway 22 northeast of Bairoil, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 20/26 west of Casper, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 20/26/87 in Casper, expect delays;
U.S. Highway 85 between Lingle and Lusk, expect delays;
Wyoming Highway 211 northwest of Cheyenne, expect delays, and
U.S. Highway 85 in Cheyenne, expect delays.

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Military Truck Carrying Ammunition Catches Fire on I-80

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Thanks to the Uinta County Fire Department, a disaster was averted on Monday afternoon when a military truck carrying ammunition caught fire on Interstate 80 outside of Evanston.

After the truck caught fire, the Wyoming Highway Patrol closed Interstate 80 as the fire department battled the blaze, which all but destroyed the cab of the truck.

The cargo containers which held the ammunition were not breached and the firefighters put out the blaze without any injuries.

After the fire was extinguished the military convoy — minus one truck — was able to continue its journey.

“We were headed to Evanston and passed it before any emergency vehicles were there,” said Susan Lallatin on Facebook.  “Guys were running with fire extinguishers! Great job putting it out.”

Todd Ranker, a motorist from Illinois who was stuck behind the burning truck told Cowboy State Daily he was concerned everything was going to explode.

“I thought it was going to be exactly like the movie ‘The Naked Gun’ where that missile hit the fireworks stand and everything blew up,” Ranker said.

“My wife and I watched that movie a couple weeks ago and I told her this is like deja vu or karma or something,” he said.

“The wreckage looked like an everyday scene in Chicago. I need to move out here to God’s country,” he added.

If the story sounds familiar, just last week a Humvee — also in a military convoy — caught fire during rush hour on a Friday afternoon in Utah.

There were no injuries reported in that accident either.

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Construction Season in Wyoming Causes Continuing Delays On Highways

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Construction season continues to be in full swing on Wyoming’s highways.

According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s road condition website, numerous projects are underway that could slow travelers across Wyoming this week.

The interstate highways are seeing plenty of work this week.

On Interstate 25, bridge rehabilitation and pavement marking work south of Cheyenne, bridge rehabilitation between Cheyenne and Chugwater and bridge construction in Casper are all expected to cause some traffic delays.

Near Kaycee, the DOT is advising drivers a highway construction project could create 20-minute delays with stopped traffic.

Interstate 90’s only project that could delay traffic is east of Moorcroft, where bridge repairs are underway.

On Interstate 80, a series of road projects are expected slow traffic east of Cheyenne, in Telephone Canyon between Cheyenne and Laramie, west of Laramie, at Elk Mountain, between Sinclair and Walcott and on either side of Rock Springs.

A number of projects are also underway on state and federal highways. Work causing delays in travel can be expected in the following areas:

Wyoming Highway 296 northwest of Cody, expect delays;
Wyomig Highway 120 northwest of Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 310/Wyoming Highway 789 north of Powell, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 14A/310/Wyoming Highway 789 near Lovell, expect delays;
U.S. Highway 14/16/20 in Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;
Wyoming Highway 30 between Basin and Burlington, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 16/20/Wyoming Highway 789 near Worland, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 16 between Worland and Ten Sleep, delays of up to 15 minutes, stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 16 east of Ten Sleep, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 26/287 between Moran Junction and Dubois, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 20/Wyoming Highway 789 at Shoshoni, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 287 north of Lander, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 287/Wyoming Highway 789 southeast of Lander, delays of up to 15 minutes;
Wyoming Highway 28 south of Lander, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 189/191/26/89 south of Jackson, delays of up to 20 minutes between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
U.S. Highway 189/191 at Pinedale Bridge, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 89 between Thayne and Alpine Junction, delays of up to 20 minutes, stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 20/26 west of Casper, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 220 southwest of Casper, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 20/26/87 in Casper, expect delays;
U.S. Highway 85 between Lingle and Lusk, expect delays, and
Wyoming Highway 211 northwest of Cheyenne, expect delays.

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Delays Everywhere In Wyoming With 43 Road Construction Projects Ongoing

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

As is often said, there are four seasons in Wyoming — Winter, late winter, early winter and construction.

And the construction season is well underway across the state, with 43 projects ongoing, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

According to the department’s road condition website many of the projects are taking place on Interstates 25, 80 and 90, although few should result in traffic delays. The delays that do occur will be the result of lane restrictions or reduced speed limits, the department said.

On Interstate 90, the department said some delays will occur in the area of a bridge repair project near Moorcroft and a paving project near Moorcroft.

Delays on Interstate 25 can be expected around a paving project between Kaycee and Casper, a bridge rehabilitation project in Casper and a bridge rehabilitation project north of Cheyenne.

On Interstate 80, delays can be expected near a bridge replacement project east of Cheyenne, a pavement marking project west of Cheyenne, rock work in Telephone Canyon west of Cheyenne, construction of new semitruck parking spaces at the Fort Steele Rest Area east of Sinclair,  a paving project at Elk Mountain and bridge rehabilitation work west of Rock Springs.

A number of projects are also underway on state and federal highways. Work causing delays in travel can be expected in the following areas:

U.S. Highway 310/Wyoming Highway 789 west of Cowley, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 20/26/16 near Powell, delays of up to 20 minutes;
Wyoming Highway 120 between Cody and the Montana border, delays of up to 20 minutes;
Wyoming Highway 120 south of Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes with stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 14/16/20 near Cody, delays of up to 20 minutes with stopped traffic;
U.S. Highway 14 east of Cody, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 16/20, Wyoming Highway 789 north of Thermopolis, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 20, Wyoming Highway 789 north of Shoshoni, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 287 northwest of Lander, delays of up to 20 minutes with stopped traffic
U.S. Highway 26 west of Dubois, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 26, Wyoming Highway 287 between Dubois and Moran Junction, delays;
U.S. Highway 26/287 between Dubois and Moran Junction, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 189/191/26/89 south of Jackson, delays of up to 20 minutes;
U.S. Highway 89 between Thayne and Alpine Junction, delays of up to 20 minutes;
Wyoming Highway 28 south of Lander, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 287, Wyoming Highway 789 south of Lander, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 20/26 west of Casper, delays of up to 20 minutes;
Wyoming Highway 220 north of Rawlins, delays of up to 15 minutes;
U.S. Highway 85 between Lingle and Lusk, expect delays, and
Wyoming Highway 211 north of Cheyenne, expect delays.

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Signs Of Summer: WYDOT To Open Highway 14A in Northern Wyoming on Friday

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The Wyoming Department of Transportation is set to open US 14A by noon on Friday, May 28.  

US 14A is one of four mountain passes that are affected by seasonal winter closures. This 22-mile stretch of scenic mountain road is located in the Bighorn Mountains of north-central Wyoming. WYDOT closes these routes in the late fall once maintaining the roads due to heavy, drifting snow makes it difficult and impractical. 

Crews from both the Lovell and Burgess Junction sides began snow removal operations at the beginning of May with a target date of Memorial Day to open.  The snowpack was low this season, which allowed crews to complete plowing operations earlier than usual.  

This early completion allowed construction contractors to perform crack seal operations on US 14A while it is still closed, thus eliminating the associated costs of traffic control. These operations are scheduled to be completed the week of May 24 just in time for the official opening of US 14A. 

Although access to many forest service roads is not available at this time, motorists are asked to stay on US 14A and not attempt to access any other roads at this time. 

WYDOT reminds motorists to obey all speed limits, wear your seatbelt at all time, watch for wildlife and enjoy this spectacular drive. 

The Wyoming Department of Transportation is set to open US 14A by noon on Friday, May 28.

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Wyoming Rest Areas Busy As They Reopen on Friday

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The cars and trucks have not stopped coming to the Chugwater rest area since it reopened early Friday morning. Even before its entry gates went up at 6 a.m. for the first time in nearly a year, two trucks and horse trailers were lined up waiting. 

Since then, the visits have not slowed, according to LaCynda Fortik, who manages the contract for the reopened facility. 

The Chugwater rest area was one of 10 around the state that closed last June due to budget cuts implemented by Governor Mark Gordon, a move that saved the state roughly $200,000. 

As of Friday morning, nine of those reopened, including those at or near:

Lusk on U.S. Highway 18
Guernsey on U.S. Highway 26
Greybull on U.S. Highway 16
Moorcroft on Interstate 90
Star Valley on U.S. Highway 89
Sundance on Interstate 90
Upton on U.S. Highway 16
Orin Junction on Interstate 25, and
Chugwater on Interstate 25

Only the Fort Steele rest area off 1-80 will remain closed, according to Doug McGee, public affairs manager for WYDOT.

McGee said the rest area is closed because of a large construction project in the vicinity currently underway to expand truck parking by about 200 parking spots to provide refuge for drivers in inclement weather when the interstate shuts down. The project is scheduled to be complete by fall of 2022, when the rest area will reopen, McGee said.

Getting the rest of the shuttered rest areas up and running in time for summer tourist season was a priority for the office of Gov. Mark Gordon. Gordon tasked WYDOT to partner with Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) to appropriate available federal funding to make it happen.

“We wanted to show the world that Wyoming is open for business,” McGee said, “and we wanted to help people feel welcome.”

McGee said the department is in the process of applying for funding from multiple sources. The goal is to keep the rest areas open through Sept. 30, if not longer. Ideally, the state will find funding to keep them open year-round. 

Overhead electronic signs on 1-25 this morning advertised the newly opened rest areas throughout the state, and Fortik noted it was effective advertising.

“It’s so busy,” she said, taking a brief break from duties Friday morning. “That place has not stopped since the gates went up.”

Mostly, it’s been vehicles with out-of-state license plates and a lot of snowbirds making their way back home, she said. 

Maintaining the rest areas keeps Fortik and other contractors hopping from dust to dawn. They’re responsible for removing and disposing of all trash, litter and weeds on the grounds, cleaning the walks and parking area, as well as maintaining the restroom facilities and mowing the grounds, among other duties.

Fortik estimated that she and her small crew of helpers stop by the rest area three to four times a day for a minimum of three-to-four hours per day. 

Mowing is by far the hardest job to keep up on, she said, though she makes it her business to keep the rest area looking clean because in her experience, she’s found that people are much more likely to respect a clean facility than a dirty one. 

McGee did not have current figures on what it will cost to maintain the nine rest areas for the four-month season, though based on last year’s figures, the costliest one to run was the rest area off 1-25 at Orin Junction at $10,324 per month.

Chugwater came in second at just under $9,873, while the Star Valley rest area was the cheapest to maintain at $1,449 per month.

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