Transportation Officials Undertake Projects to Boost Safety on I-80, Receive Funding for Other Road Improvements
Wyoming adding truck parking spots, climbing lanes and more
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Oct 06, 2023
A ribbon cutting ceremony took place at the new Quealy Dome truck parking area along I-80 at exit 290 on Sept. 20. (Courtesy photo from the Wyoming Department of Transportation)
By Shen Wu Tan
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Driving along Interstate 80 in Wyoming is no easy feat, with motorists zipping by at faster than 75 mph and weaving between a plethora of semi-trucks.
Now, imagine being a commercial truck driver on the interstate during harsh winter conditions.
Transportation officials are working to improve safety on this major commerce expressway for the cold months, including projects that increase parking spaces, lanes, fencing and salt and sand storage. The state also will receive millions in federal funding for other transportation projects.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced Thursday that it has allocated $403 million for Wyoming in the next fiscal year for investments in “critical infrastructure,” including bridges, tunnels, roads, carbon emission reductions and safety improvements.
On top of that, Wyoming will add new truck parking spots along I-80, among other roadway safety projects, with a $27.7 million federal grant. The additional spaces should help boost safety during winter snow and ice storm operations, which have caused collisions and backups, as well as assist with freight movement, the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a statement.
Jordan Young, a deputy public affairs officer for the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), said the federal grant “helps address a national shortage of truck parking and improves safety for all drivers on I-80, a critical freight corridor for the entire nation” and will enable more projects beyond a typical year’s construction efforts to be completed.
“Safety improvements are at the heart of every project – and this fact is especially true for interstate projects,” Young told the Wyoming Truth. “Increasing opportunities for commercial carriers to safely park and rest in a well-lit designated location increases travel safety for all motorists. Strategically placed passing lanes create a safer environment by separating slower traffic, such as heavy trucks moving uphill.”
The I-80 Winter Freight Improvement Project also includes construction of about 5.5 miles of passing lanes on the interstate between Laramie and Rawlins in southeastern Wyoming. Quealy Dome and Fort Steele Rest Area will each contain 100 parking spaces, offering a safe spot for trucks to park and space for snow removal along the roadway.
The entire project costs $34 million, with a $6.9 million match from Wyoming. It includes truck climbing lanes at Halleck Ridge and Cooper Cove, about 12 miles of wildlife fence along I-80 near Halleck Ridge, a 6.75-mile pavement overlay on I-80 at eastbound Halleck Ridge and a new salt and sand storage building at Quealy Dome, according to Andrea Staley, public relations specialist for WYDOT District One.
She added that work still needs to be done at both parking areas, but that both should be operational by this winter. The construction of passing lanes has been completed.
Sheila Foertsch, president and CEO of the Wyoming Trucking Association, told the Wyoming Truth that the lanes and parking spots will have a meaningful impact on safety along I-80.
“Lack of adequate parking affects almost every aspect of a commercial driver’s profession—from the quality of life to compensation,” she said. “Wasted time, frustration, supply chain issues, as well as unnecessary congestion and emissions are some of the very real results of inadequate parking. Truck parking has been identified by both motor carriers and truck drivers as one of the top five industry issues this year…. Commercial drivers need safe, secure, well-lit, easily accessible areas to rest comfortably.”
Foertsch added commercial trucks are legally required to take rest breaks, making available parking areas even more necessary.
As of Oct. 5, the Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP) has recorded 106 traffic fatalities in 2023, which is higher than the deaths reported for the past three years. Detailed crash statistics for this year are not yet available.
In 2022, the state transportation department recorded 1,751 crashes involving commercial vehicles, including 298 that resulted in injuries and 25 that led to fatalities.
Additionally, the department received a grant to help fund design work for a new I-25 and I-80 interchange to enhance driver safety. Young called the current cloverleaf design of the interchange “outdated.” The department is applying for grant funding for a truck parking area in Evanston as well. The federal transportation department estimates that freight carried by trucks in Wyoming will increase by 80% in value to $58 billion, with a 63% increase in weight to 69 million tons by 2050.
On a national scale, freight movement is expected to reach a dollar value of total trade that exceeds $20 trillion in 2023, with trucks making up the primary transportation mode at 72%. Freight activity in the U.S. is anticipated to grow by about 78% in value to $36 trillion between 2023 and 2050.