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Snow place to go

BOCCC struggle with answers to issue of interstate travelers utilizing snowbound county roads


February 26, 2020

Despite the predictions of Punxsutawney Phil, it has felt to some that the winter weather that was heralded by storms in October will never come to an end. The Board of Carbon County Commissioners (BOCCC) are among those frustrated with the extended winter and interstate travelers who continue to get stuck on county roads while following their GPS.

During their February 18 meeting, the BOCCC discussed the ongoing issue and possible solutions with Road and Bridge Interim Coordinator Kandis Fritz and Carbon County Sheriff Archie Roybal. While most of the commissioners were in attendance, it was noted that Chairman John Johnson was in warmer climates. Vice-Chair Sue Jones led the meeting in his absence.

“When the highways and the interstates are closed, we have had numerous phone calls, and so has the sheriff’s office, of people getting stuck. So, if you guys have any ideas. They don’t follow the signs but we need to stop them somehow,” said Fritz. “They’re going out, they’re getting stuck and someone’s going to get hurt.”

Jones stated that this wasn’t a problem that was unique to Carbon County, adding that she had spoken to other county commissioners a week prior who were also struggling with travelers attempting to use county roads to bypass a closed interstate or closed highways.

“GPS maps show everything open,” said Jones.

“Word of mouth is just not enough and if those individuals are going through signs and road closures, they are getting cited, so that’s a good thing but a lot of its not locals,” said Roybal. “There’s a lot of individuals that are not from here.”

Commissioner John Espy, in so many words, indicated that there appeared to be a lack of common sense on the part of those traveling through Carbon County.

“The interstate’s closed, what makes you think that a sideroad on the Continental Divide is going to be passable? Interstate 80 from Wamsutter to Laramie is a mountain pass. It’s a long one but, essentially, that’s what it is,” said Epsy.

He added he had experienced instances in which travelers had argued with him about the status of county roads. Jones suggested reaching out to the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) to include county road closures in their 511 report or the National Weather Service for the same to be included in weather reports.

“How much of the 511 does, say, a truck driver going across the country or any of those kinds of people utilize,” Jones said. “I was wondering, at the very least, have them, when they put out closures that all surrounding county roads are also not open.” 

Commissioners Travis Moore stated that it was a losing battle in trying to prevent travelers from attempting to use, and getting stuck on, snowbound county roads. He added that even if the BOCCC reached out to organizations such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters or Over the Road trucking groups, there were still the owner/operator semi-trucks to deal with.

“I think we have to pay attention to those types of things and do our due diligence, but there’s no way we can interfere or jump in the middle to someone’s understanding. If the GPS says, so, by god, it’s true and that’s just the way it is and that’s just the world we live in regardless. As it was when people were moving west early in the settling of this nation,” said Moore. “They didn’t heed warnings then, they’re not going to heed warnings now. They ignore the signs but we have to do our due diligence so they don’t die out there.”

Fritz informed the BOCCC that she had reached out to multiple GPS companies last year to try and ask them to remove county roads from their systems during the winter months. According to Fritz, only one of those companies had responded and while she had asked them to remove county roads from their systems during the winter, that had not happened.

“Until they’re liable then it’s not going to change,” Moore said.

“And they’ll never be liable,” said Jones.

With no clear answer on how to prevent the use of snowbound county roads during what is already a difficult winter for Carbon County, the BOCCC thanked Fritz and Roybal for doing what they have done to date in response to the issue.

The next meeting of the Board of Carbon County Commissioners will be at 9 a.m. on March 3 at the County Courthouse in Rawlins.


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