The Saratoga Sun -

WYDOT looks down the financial road

 


A coterie of seven from the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) arrived in sharp attire to a July 20 meeting of the Carbon County Council of Governments (COGs). The mix of road workers and WYDOT officialdom represented about a fifth of the total turnout at the COGs meeting.

Their presentation, delivered by WYDOT District 1 District Engineer Tom DeHoff, was a half-hour summary of WYDOT’s plan for the next seven years. DeHoff gave a brief overview of 28 different projects WYDOT hoped to complete between now and 2022. Maintenance, as opposed to making improvements or embarking on new projects, was a unifying theme.

“We’ve been migrating to an asset management mode–it’s not necessarily an improvement program,” DeHoff told the assembled officials at the beginning of his talk. It was a point DeHoff returned to repeatedly as he elaborated on the technical details of the road work his agency hopes to accomplish.

WYDOT is expected to receive about 20 percent of its funding from the $.24 per gallon state gasoline tax in fiscal year 2016. About 67 percent of the state gasoline tax goes to WYDOT, and that tax went up by $.10 in April of 2014, adding about $50 million to WYDOT’s annual budget. With vehicles getting more and more miles per gallon, however, it appears that this funding source will be shrinking steadily into the foreseeable future.

The federal government provides the largest portion of WYDOT funding—approximately 45 percent in 2016—so the agency hasn’t been as impacted by state-level budget cuts as other state departments. The recent passage of a five-year federal highways bill secured about a 5 percent increase in WYDOT funding from the federal government over the next five years. That highway bill is only funded through the next three years, however, raising the possibility that anticipated revenues could dry up in the middle of projects, DeHoff said.

Coupled with the agency’s dependence on gasoline tax funding and increasing construction costs this means, in DeHoff’s words, “The money just can’t go as far as it used to.” DeHoff also added that WYDOT is currently in a hiring freeze.

The projects DeHoff listed included the ongoing maintenance work on interstate 80 between miles 233 and 240. Improvements to WYO 230 between miles 27 and 38 were also noted, as were $1.5 million in bridge rehabilitations to take place in 2018 and $200,000 in cattle guard replacements slotted for the same year. WYDOT plans to replace the Savery Creek Road bridge for an as-yet-to-be determined cost in 2019. In 2020, WYDOT hopes to complete a $4.8 million road improvement project on HWY 70 between Encampment and Savery. This is a sampling of the work to be completed, and DeHoff briefly described other projects as well.

In a short question and answer section following DeHoff’s powerpoint, several officials thanked WYDOT for the work the agency had completed in their communities. Officials also took the opportunity to raise transportation issues their towns face.

Kenda Colman, Medicine Bow council member, told the WYDOT officials that the drastic change in speed limit–from 70 mph to 30 mph– leading into Medicine Bow was dangerous. Many motorists ignore the town speed limit, Colman said. DeHoff promised he would have the District Traffic Engineer Randy Griesbach look into adding a step-down speed limit between the 70 mph zone and the 30 mph zone.

Leroy Stephenson, Mayor of Riverside, told DeHoff that he was concerned about overloaded logging and oil trucks going too fast through Riverside on HWY 230. DeHoff said he would consult the Wyoming Highway Patrol about occasionally setting up a temporary scale on the route to discourage this behavior.

 

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