Reconsider the I-80 toll
Earlier this month, a Wyoming roadway was closed partially after its pavement deteriorated so quickly that it necessitated emergency repairs.
Though the deteriorating pavement — on a section of Interstate 80 between Rawlins and Laramie — is far removed from Powell's road system, highways in our area may soon face similar plights.
With worsening highway conditions statewide, Wyoming Department of Transportation crews are struggling to keep up.
“The bottom line is that state roadways are deteriorating at a faster rate than we have the ability to fix based on current revenue,” said WYDOT District Engineer Jay Gould, in a recent press release.
He cautioned that Wyoming residents will see more situations where roads are closed for emergency repairs, especially on heavily-traveled interstates.
More than 6,800 miles of roadways wind through Wyoming. Each stretch requires regular maintenance, but funding for upkeep is scarce. In the last budget session, the Legislature reduced the department's money for highway construction by $150 million from the previous biennium.
Those funding woes are compounded by the expiration of the Federal Aid Highway Program in September 2009. Federal highway funding currently is being distributed under continuing resolutions, which limit the department's ability to do long-term planning.
Wyoming's current situation — dwindling budgets and deteriorating roadways — signals the need for a new approach to fund highway maintenance.
State leaders should reconsider a toll for I-80.
The frequented interstate sees around 13,000 vehicles daily, with heavy trucks accounting for half of that traffic. The wear and tear of a single heavy truck is equivalent to that of 400 cars, according to WYDOT.
Over the next 30 years, maintenance for Wyoming's 400 mile-stretch of I-80 is estimated to cost $6.4 billion. Yes, that's a staggering figure — in fact, it exceeds the total of revenue projected to be available for maintaining Wyoming's entire highway system, according to an I-80 tolling study.
Though the recent tolling study conveyed the steep costs Wyoming faces in maintaining I-80, state legislators voted against the tolling concept earlier this year. The tolling issue may remain dormant for now, but the cost of fixing deteriorating highways certainly is not.
State legislators, and Wyoming's next governor, must consider how to keep the state's roadways safe and well maintained — even if it means imposing a toll for I-80.