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June 04, 2013 8:13 am

Harder times coming for Wyoming road upkeep

Written by CJ Baker

A new state fuel tax will help preserve some of Wyoming’s roads, but it won’t be enough to maintain them all.

“Our goal is to keep the good roads good, and the bad roads may get worse,” Wyoming Department of Transportation District 5 Engineer Shelby Carlson said Thursday.

 

 

Carlson made the comments at the Park County Courthouse during an annual meeting about the future of local state roads.

“We are still moving towards the preservation philosophy with our program,” Carlson said — meaning a move away from the goal of improving the condition of state roads.

“We just don’t have the funding do that anymore,” Carlson said.

Even with an additional 10 cents of fuel tax that will bring WyDOT an estimated $47.5 million a year, “we’re still about $62 million short of our projections just to maintain the investment out there in its current condition,” she said.

Had the additional tax on fuel not been passed, however, “it would be much harder on all of us,” said Wyoming Transportation Commission member Bruce McCormack of Cody. McCormack represents the Big Horn Basin on the commission, a citizens group that oversees the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

“I think it was with great foresight that all of you (Park County commissioners) backed the fuel tax and helped the Legislature, because absent that, in the year ahead, it would be quite a bit harder on all of us to keep up the roads,” McCormack added.

Carlson generally described the fuel tax as replacing supplemental funding that had been provided by the Legislature on a budget-to-budget basis.

She said this district — which is composed of Park, Big Horn, Hot Springs, Washakie, most of Fremont and parts of Natrona and Teton counties — generally has had an annual budget of about $40 million. In 2015, however, WyDOT expects that budget to reach a new normal of $30 million. That’s due in part to money being shuffled to federal highways elsewhere in the state, and to interstates in particular.

“We certainly will feel the impact of that,” Carlson said. She said it will force the district to scrutinize every project and repair job.

“It’s a challenge — one we’re embracing and we’re going to move forward and we’re going to make it work,” Carlson said.

Below is a list of some current and upcoming projects.

This year:

• Finish widening the last three and a half miles of U.S. Highway 14-A between Powell and Cody from two lanes to five. The $12.3 million project will widen the stretch from West Cooper Lane just outside Cody to the west side of the Corbett Bridge, where the highway switches to three lanes. The department does not plan to widen the three-lane stretch across the bridge and past Road 2AB “at least in the immediate future,” Carlson said. It’s expected the project will begin within the next month or so.

• Level and overlay U.S. 14-A between Powell and Garland. The contractor has nearly completed that project, with reseeding and chip sealing expected to be finished this month.

• Chip seal U.S. Highway 14-16-20 West from just outside Cody to Trout Creek; Wyo. Highway 120 from the Montana border to about five miles south; and U.S. 14-A from Garland to the Big Horn County line. “All of those should be real quick and just take two or three days apiece,” said WyDOT Resident Engineer Todd Frost.

• Continue to study the rocks overhanging U.S. Highway 14-16-20 West near the Buffalo Bill Dam. The purpose of the study is to see if any action needs to be taken on dangerous rocks.

• Repair bridges on the North Fork, near Yellowstone National Park, on U.S. Highway 14-16-20 west.

2014

• Widen and overlay four and a half miles of U.S. 14-16-20 west of Wapiti, from the Shoshone National Forest boundary to the Wapiti school. The shoulders will be increased from 6 to 8 feet wide. Also, some concrete work will be used between the Wapiti Lodge and school and the highway to better separate traffic and those parking lots. In 2015, plans call for the highway to be leveled and overlaid — though not widened — another seven miles going east from the school to about Trout Creek.

• The Chief Joseph Highway (Wyo. Highway 296) will get new cattle guards and guardrails. The highway will be leveled and overlaid from the Dead Indian Campground to the scenic overlook in 2015 and then down from there to its intersection with Wyo. 120 in 2016.

2016

• Resurface 1.2 miles of Cody’s 8th Street (which also serves as U.S. 14-16-20) between West Park Hospital and the city’s west strip.

2017 & 2018

• Level and overlay Wyo. 120 South from about 10 miles north of Meeteetse to Cody.

One thing local residents shouldn’t expect to see anytime soon is the Wyoming Department of Transportation assuming responsibility of the Beartooth Highway (U.S. 212). Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk recently restated a Park Service wish that the state of Wyoming take over maintenance of the portions of the highway in the state.

Carlson said the department has been pressured before and will have discussions with park officials this summer, but “at this point, I don’t think we have any intentions of taking it (the Beartooth Highway) on.”

She said the department doesn’t have enough resources to take care of what it already maintains.

Editor's note: This version adds that chip sealing still remained on this year's Powell-Garland project.

3 comments

  • Comment Link June 05, 2013 2:22 pm posted by clipstein

    after all the money wasted one new schools that were not needed. then the likes of the simpson family who think spend and spend more is the way........ now you pay and pay...

  • Comment Link June 06, 2013 7:42 am posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    Not to worry,the tax loving RINO's will come up with another tax to empty your pockets even more.Never saw a tax a RINO didn't like.

  • Comment Link June 08, 2013 2:09 am posted by SuperSixOne

    With the introduction of hybrid, natural gas and electric vehicles, Americans need to be prepared to possibly see their 2015 IRS 1040 form to have a "Miles Driven" line to figure. This is so the government can continue to tax you in order to pay for their glutonous spending on MUST HAVE items like, IRS Star Trek movies, multi-million dollar IRS conventions, complete with room upgrades and Playoff tickets. Let's not forget the 17 Trillion in debt we face.

    Why? Local, State and Federal governments, who want us to "Go Green" because that is the politically correct thing to do, are now suffering from a rising lack of tax revenue for their pockets. Add to that, a down economy, where people are driving less. This of course is totally unacceptable by today's American Beaurocratic standards.

    These Event Data Recorders (EDR) that will be mandatory on all new 2015 vehicles, are similar to their airplane black box counterparts, they will record data such as speed, brake force, electrical systems monitoring and of course, miles driven. Do not forget, there may even be a "Kill Switch" installed in these, for Law Enforcement purposes. This Bill passed the Senate, and has yet to be voted on in the House. Just so you know, if passed, all of this will be enforced of course, by Mr. Obama's Brown Shirts in the IRS.

    So, Park County does not need an additional Tax Levy for roads, they will likely get their cut come 2015 if the House passes this Bill.

    American need to become more politically literate in how their elected officials really do not care about anything other than their own greed. Nothing defines this more than the U.S. Congress passing a bill that no longer makes them subject to insider trading laws. In April 2013, President Obama signed a repeal of the law as it applies to all but top government staffers and Congress. Welcome to Congress, Crime Incorporated.

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