Jul 27, 2016

Upcoming road work planned for Cody, Meeteetse and Powell area highways

As the state of Wyoming has slashed millions of dollars from its budget in recent months, the state’s roads and bridges have emerged relatively unscathed so far.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation plans to complete $285.4 million worth of construction projects this year — up by $20 million from 2015.

“We did pretty well,” WYDOT District 5 Engineer Shelby Carlson said at a meeting last week in Cody. “We did not take a hit like a lot of the state agencies did.”

Carlson said one reason her department fared better than others is that “the whole economy of the state runs on the backbone of the highway system.” WYDOT also got millions of extra dollars from the new federal highway bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

The biggest share of this year’s construction dollars will go to Wyoming’s interstates, while District 5 — which includes all of the Big Horn Basin plus Fremont County and parts of Teton and Natrona counties — will receive approximately $28 million.

The large projects on tap, underway or completed in Park County include:

• $2.52 million to level, overlay and chip seal 13 miles of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (Wyo. Highway 296) and $1.97 million to repair a large rock slide on the highway in the Paint Creek Canyon area, northwest of Cody.

In June, crews had to get high above the road to repair a rock slide area along the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (Wyo. Highway 296). Photo courtesy WYDOT
• $1.95 million to overhaul a little more than a mile of Cody’s main street (Sheridan Avenue/Eighth Street/Yellowstone Avenue) between China Town and Cody Labs; the route is a part of U.S. Highway 14/16/20.

WYDOT and contractor Mountain Construction intended to finish the job by June 15, but ran into weather and other delays; in mid-June, they decided to pause the project until the fall, when traffic slows.

“It was just getting where we couldn’t get anything done productively,” said WYDOT Resident Engineer Todd Frost of Cody. Waiting should make it easier for travelers, who were getting backed up for blocks, and it should be better for downtown businesses and safer for construction crews as well, WYDOT officials said.

• $1.53 million to upgrade sidewalks and install wheelchair-accessible ramps along Meeteetse’s main street (Wyo. Highway 120)

• $1.53 million to replace some old, substandard guardrail along roughly 4.5 miles of Wyo. Highway 120, north of Meeteetse

In the meantime, crews are finishing up the new Willwood Bridge southwest of Powell, which is “99 percent done right now,” Frost said. He expects the bridge to be paved within the next couple of weeks.

Also just getting some finishing touches are a series of improvements to U.S. Highway 14/16/20 through the Wapiti area.

As for next year, Powell residents can expect to see $2.52 million worth of work to remove the remaining medians on Coulter Avenue (U.S. Highway 14-A), replace the current street lights and re-surface that portion of the road.

The largest local project scheduled for 2017 is a $6.8 million effort to level, overlay and chip seal 11 miles of Wyo. Highway 120 south of Cody. It’s the start of a plan to resurface the entire Cody-Meeteetse route between next year and 2022.

WYDOT has also set aside $685,750 next year to try reducing the amount of falling rock by the tunnels near the Buffalo Bill Dam, on U.S. Highway 14/16/20. That “rock fall mitigation” will involve blasting off a huge boulder and removing around 10,000 cubic yards of material west of Cody, Frost said.

In 2018, WYDOT plans to spend $100,000 constructing a parking lot near the tunnels to serve as a staging area for rock climbers.

WYDOT plans to construct a parking lot for climbers near the tunnels west of Cody.

The department blocked off access to the pullout a number of years ago, but with climbers now walking through the tunnels to get there, WYDOT is reversing course.

“We’re going to open that parking lot back up and just give them access rather than take the hazards of them walking through the tunnels all the time,” said District 5 Engineer Lyle Lamb.

In addition to those projects, WYDOT will continue its routine maintenance around the district: sealing cracks, fixing culverts, rehabilitating bridges and upgrading guardrails.

The department is continuing to focus on preserving its roads — rather than upgrading them — in the state’s tighter times.

The FAST Act immediately restored $242 million in federal Abandoned Mine Lands funding to Wyoming and the state should receive $595 million more over the next five years, according to WYDOT. The funding was restored by the actions of Wyoming’s Congressional delegation, though Carlson said other members of Congress have already drafted legislation to take that money back.

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