The Saratoga Sun -

WAT to go

WYDOT offers system to conditionally travel on closed roads

 

February 27, 2019

Mike Armstrong

A truck rolls down the often closed US 30 between Walcott Junction and Hanna Junction on a typical windy and snowy winter day in Carbon County.

This has been a winter that has thrown a lot of snow and wind at Carbon County communities. It has resulted in roads being closed for many hours at a time and, on occasion, days at a time.

People who work out of their communities can find themselves missing work, doctor appointments or other situations where travel between communities is essential.

When roads are impassable, no person wants to attempt the drive, no matter the reason to travel. Sometimes the roads are not impassable however and residents in Carbon County find themselves wondering why they can't travel.

Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) does have a solution for local drivers when the roads are closed to general traffic; WYDOT Authorized Travel (WAT).

According to Ali Ragan, project manager for WYDOT's Geographic Information Systems/Intelligent Transportation Systems Program, WAT is a password program to travel closed roads given out by an email alert if roads are deemed safe for local traffic by WYDOT.

"There are three main reasons roads close," Ragan said. "Crashes, limited visibility, drifting snow on roads. The wind has been responsible on occasion."

She said when roads get dangerous, and it is decided sections must be closed, WYDOT will roll back the closures to towns that can handle the traffic and people that are halted. For instance, on Interstate 80, Elk Mountain might be impassable. WYDOT will close the interstate at Laramie rather than let the traffic try and stop on exits where there is little accommodation for large amounts of vehicles. Sometimes, if the closure looks too lengthy and a town like Rawlins cannot handle the volume of people, WYDOT will roll back to Rock Springs.

WYDOT tries hard to keep the roads open, but when they must close routes, they do their best to be strategic.

This can mean closing roads for several hundred miles although some of the roads are actually passable for some stretches. Local residents can feel frustrated not being able to move out of their communities.

WAT is a great solution.

In order to receive email alerts and access to the dial-in phone system regarding WAT situations, an individual or business should go to wat.wyoroad.info. Once on the website, the applicant must provide a valid email address, phone number and mailing address. Once this information is put forth, the applicant will go to another page which will ask the following particulars: driver information, contact information, vehicle information, justification for travel and road section(s) they need to use.

A map shows all routes in the state and the applicant will highlight what roads they need to travel. Next, applicant must enter justification for travel in a text box. Once done filling out the information, the application is sent off to Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP).

Applications will be reviewed by WHP personnel and, if accepted, the driver will be subscribed by WYDOT to receive the appropriate email messages that authorize travel. They will also receive an identification number that will allow them to access an automated phone system to check on whether they are authorized to travel on closed roads. Subscriptions expire each summer and renewal requests for the next season can be submitted beginning Aug. 1.

Drivers approved for WAT will be notified via email when WYDOT authorizes travel on an otherwise closed road, for which they have applied and been approved. Once a driver has received authorization via email or through the phone system, they may travel beyond a closure location, but must stay within the authorized limits defined in the notification.

In all cases, the driver should, whenever possible, have a copy or proof of the email message which authorized travel or the spoken authorization code from the dial in system message.

"The WAT program enables motorists to travel on sections of otherwise closed roads if nearby conditions are safe," said Ragan. "The program gives motorists permission to travel if their destinations are between the closure gates and impassable portions of the road."

WAT doesn't give blanket permission for motorists to travel during every road closure. The only time WYDOT will notify a person is if the section they requested is safe to travel and not impacted by any events that closed the road initially.

Besides individual motorists, businesses can sign up for WAT. The business program allows a person to manage WAT subscriptions for multiple drivers within their organization.

Motorists without internet access can call WYDOT's Public Affairs at 307-777-4375 to request a WAT program application.

Carbon County residents may be pleased to know with the roads closing as often as they do, there is a program that allows them to travel when the roads are deemed safe and general traffic does not have access.

 

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