History of Crashes Returns Discussion to Wyoming’s I-80 Safety

April 30, 2015

A third lane along Wyoming’s Interstate 80 could have prevented some of the collisions and gridlock caused by two recent pileups in the southeastern part of the state, according to the former chairman of a legislative transportation panel.

“If there would have been a third lane existing at the time of those wrecks – not saying there wouldn’t have been those wrecks – there would have been an escape route,” said state Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette.

Nicknamed the “Snow Chi Minh Trail,” I-80 in southeastern Wyoming has been the scene of numerous pileups and fatalities over the years. Thousands of semitrailers haul freight along it daily. Snow can be deep and accumulate suddenly, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

On April 20, 18 miles west of Laramie, the interstate was closed for about 32 hours for investigation and cleanup of a fiery chain-reaction crash involving over 60 vehicles. Two people were killed.

On April 16, 17 miles west of Cheyenne, I-80 was closed for two days after nearly 40 separate traffic accidents, including several large pileups. About two dozen people were taken to the hospital.

Weather and driver speeds played a role in the recent collisions, said state Rep. Dave Zwontizer, R-Laramie. That’s why he thinks building a third lane is too expensive.

“I look at it more of as a convenience problem,” said Zwonitzer, chairman of the House Transportation committee. “You have to see how often that is happening. Does that justify $3 million to $4 million a mile to put in another lane? We’ve got a population of 500,000 people.”

Von Flatern said lawmakers may need to get creative. Options could include raising the interstate 8 feet above the ground to allow the wind and snow to blow under the road, building a dome over the interstate to shield it from weather, or loading trucks on trains in Evanston and unloading them at the Cheyenne terminal or even in Chicago, he said.

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