WYDOT struggles with Wyoming’s winter
by Wyoming Department of Transportation
January 15, 2008
The recent series of winter storms which brought cold, snow and wind to Wyoming not only fouled travel on numerous occasions, but also created some difficulties for the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
Overall, southeast Wyoming has suffered the biggest impact from the bad weather. An indication: During December and early January, snow and wind storms on eight separate occasions forced closures of Interstate 80. Similarly, severe winter conditions have forced four closures of Interstate 25 in the Cheyenne area.
Other locations have also been hard hit. Pinedale and surrounding areas of Sublette County experienced some of the worst storms in years, including blizzard conditions at times, according to Jim Montuoro, WYDOT’s district maintenance engineer for southwest Wyoming. The situation is complicated by increased demands for services from oil and gas fields and continuing maintenance personnel shortages.
Another indication of just how bad the weather has been in some locations: In Cheyenne and Wamsutter for example, WYDOT crews have already used entire stockpiles of sand and salt mix, which is spread on slick roads to improve traction. Stockpile quantities are based on historical usage and are intended to last all winter, and the agency must now bear the cost of replenishing them less than halfway through the season.
“We’ve had a lot more roadway icing this year compared to past winters. It definitely taxes our people because they’re out there working long hours,” said Jay Gould, WYDOT’s district engineer for southeast Wyoming. “It also starts tapping the budget; if you start spending more snow removal dollars now, then other types of road maintenance have to be deferred later.”
A current estimate shows that WYDOT has already spent about 70 percent of the current year’s budget for winter maintenance, although the state is only roughly halfway through the winter.
Another problem for WYDOT has been plow trucks being damaged in crashes, which are more likely to occur during storms when some drivers fail to slow down for conditions.
“Within the last month, we’ve had six snowplows (in southeastern Wyoming alone) which have been rear-ended,” Gould said. “A couple of those plows are out of service for some extended time until we can get the parts in and get them rebuilt.”
Elsewhere in the state, another half-dozen plows have been damaged in crashes. Fortunately, none of the workers have suffered serious injuries.
“Nevertheless, it’s hard on the employees; you’re out there and you get run into ... climbing back in that plow is kind of like getting thrown off a horse and having to get back on,” Gould added.