WYDOT open house addresses highway relocation

KEMMERER — The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) held a public meeting Wednesday, April 26, at the South Lincoln Events Center to discuss relocating a 2.4-mile segment of U.S. Highway 30. The portion of the highway up for discussion is west of Kemmerer, between marker 49 and 52. This realignment is being proposed to accommodate the Kemmerer Coal Mine expansion on the south side of the highway.

The project’s background was presented with updates and changes since a public meeting held five years ago. Moving the highway farther north would accommodate future expansion of the mine identified as the Wedge or North Block Development Area.

Comments from the previous meeting involved concerns about the historic railroad tunnel that sits on the site of the proposed reroute. Jennifer Hoffman, resident engineer for WYDOT, said their current plans will avoid the tunnel and will not impact it at all.

“Because it is historical, there is a lot of red tape,” Hoffman said. “After talking to different entities, we decided that it would be in the best interest of the project to avoid the tunnel.”    

Other comments from citizens reiterated the importance of mining tax revenue, particularly to the local hospital. Hoffman said they have had a lot of support from the community and now they are in the feasibility phase with the next step being design plans.

“Up to this point we have done general designs and now we will be working on getting the details and specifics figured out,” Hoffman said.

WYDOT oversees the project designs and will contract out the environmental portion. Once the design is complete, WYDOT will accept bids from contractors. The coal mine will pay for the design costs but state money will help fund some of the construction fees. The mine has agreed to pay the initial $15 million, with WYDOT agreeing to pay $7 million afterward.

Hoffman said, “At a minimum, the state is paying $7 million, but we could end up paying more if the cost goes up.”

Environmental factors, such as the impact on wetlands, were taken into consideration. Hoffman said, “We always consult with Game and Fish to make sure there are no concerns. It is a very involved process, and we want to make sure we cover all the bases. We are trying to balance out all the needs of the project and come up with the best solutions.”

Hoffman said WYDOT was able to avoid using federal lands for the project.

“There was a section of BLM land on a portion of the project, but we can avoid that and keep things simple.”

The Union Pacific Railroad owns a portion of the ground that the project will go through.

“When we get further along into this, we need to make sure they are comfortable with us running heavy equipment next to their property,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said underground utilities must be considered as well.

“We have a utilities program that sends out notices and works with the companies so we can avoid encroaching on them,” she said.

Geology specialists will come out after the snow melts and drill holes to give a good idea about the ground condition.

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