The Wyoming Department of Transportation has been awarded a $20 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) federal grant for their I-80 Winter Freight Improvement Project.

WYDOT plans to use the grant to make improvements on a 45-mile section of the interstate highway between Laramie and Rawlins by constructing additional passing lanes and adding freight truck parking zones, specifically to make winter travel in the area safer.

WYDOT reports crashes on I-80 are about four times more frequent during winter than during the summer months.

The proposed freight truck parking zones are for the Walcott Junction and Quealy Dome areas, and should accommodate about 100 trucks each. The parking is to give truck drivers a safe place to pull off and wait on winter conditions to improve during closures.

When winter closures take affect, roads can often become congested upon re-opening, and WYDOT hopes the addition of more passing lanes will help.

“When the road reopens, additional crashes often occur because a high volume of waiting trucks and passenger vehicles flood the road, causing traffic congestion on slick roads,” Panos said. “By constructing passing lanes where steep grades compound these traffic congestion problems, truck crashes and truck delays should decrease.”

More than 2,600 traffic accidents, with 1,323 involving trucks, occurred along the targeted 45-mile stretch of road from 2008-2017 at an estimated annual cost of about $52 million.

“Crashes often result in damage to the road,” Panos added. “These improvements will not only save lives but will also reduce road damage and ensure traffic continues to flow smoothly in the area.”

WYDOT plans to install communication devices on the road as well, which the department says will help to provide traveler information to drivers and "supplement WYDOT’s Connected Vehicle Pilot Program."

WYDOT plans to use other state and federal funds in addition to the $20 million BUILD grant and has set a tentative start date of early spring in 2020.