The Saratoga Sun -

Citizens want Battle Pass open earlier, all year

 

Liz Wood

Vistas like this can be seen on Battle Pass. Organizers want to have the pass open earlier in the spring to enhance the economy between the Platte and Little Snake Valleys.

Two public meetings will be held this week so that citizens can voice their opinions on opening Battle Highway, Wyoming Highway 70, by May 1.

The first meeting will be in Encampment on Aug. 19 and the second will be at the Valley Community Center in Baggs on Aug. 20.

John Farr, President of the Battle Pass Scenic Byway Alliance, is encouraging citizens to come and share their thoughts on opening the pass earlier or possibly even keeping it open all year with Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) District Engineer Pat Persson.

Farr presented several talking points to the Riverside and Encampment town councils last week. Farr contends that the closure of WYO 70 is hampering economic development in the Little Snake and Platte River valleys, that it is the only emergency route in or near Carbon County to move trucks and people if the I-80 bridges at Fort Steele were closed, that WYO 70 is a major timber hauling route with new sales opening in the area and that the highway is a major connector between the valleys for emergency services.

Persson said he will be at the meetings, "basically ... to collect information from the public." Persson will also present economic data including the annual costs of opening WYO 130 and WYO 70. He said that it usually costs around $200,000 to open the Snowy Range road and about $30,000 to open Battle Highway. He said those costs would be expected to rise if the roads were opened earlier because of the need to clear snow from late season storms.

Average vehicle counts from 2013 provided by WYDOT show a wide range of usage based on where the data was collected. The closest areas to where WYO 130 and WYO 70 are closed for the winter show that both roads have relatively light usage. At the eastern forest boundary on WYO 130 there was an average of 550 vehicles per day, 33 of those being commercial trucks. At Ryan Park on WYO 130 there was an average of 496 vehicles per day, including 31 commercial trucks.

On WYO 70 at the Colorado-Wyoming state line an average of 138 vehicles tripped the counter, which includes seven trucks. At the Hog Park road junction on WYO 70 an average of 303 total vehicles, 11 of those being trucks, were recorded in 2013. These numbers are significantly higher in Laramie, Centennial, Baggs and Encampment, but do not reflect the number of vehicles actually traveling over either the Snowy Range or Battle Pass.

In the end it may come down to whether or not WYDOT has the money to open WYO 70 earlier. According to Perssons, WYDOT's equipment budget was cut by $400,000 in 2015. Next year WYDOT is looking at an effective maintenance cut of $900,000, which includes increases in materials costs and a $200,000 budget cut.

Battle Highway

(WYO 70) Meetings

August 19 at 7 p.m.

Grand Encampment

Opera House, 622 Rankin in Encampment

August 20 at 7p.m.

Valley Community

Center, 255 Osborne

in Baggs

 

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