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On The Horizon - April 22, 2024

Blow Over Hazards

During the legislative interim last year, the Wyoming Joint Interim Transportation Committee was tasked with addressing issues on I-80 through the southern portion of the state - funding, traffic issues and specifically safety issues - accidents and road closures.


I-80 through Wyoming is notorious for quickly changing weather conditions - all through the year - but winters can be particularly challenging for those traveling that stretch of highway as well as those attempting to keep the road open. Blowovers are common and often tie up through traffic for long stretches of time when the interstate has to be closed to respond to the blowover. Like many other states, WYDOT has struggled with enforcing "light weight/high profile" road closures in response to high wind events. Usually enforcement was only done after the fact - if you blew over you were light weight.  

 

The University of Wyoming recently finished a study on wind speeds, gusts, direction of the wind, type of vehicle, weight of the vehicle, type of roadway, etc. WYDOT has taken that information and has begun implementing specific weight based road closures. These initially began on the interstate system in Wyoming (not just I-80, but also I-25 and I-90) and we will also begin to see them on some of the other highways. I have attached a copy of the flyer WYDOT has posted on their website and urge you to share this with your members.

 

In addition to this effort by WYDOT, the Joint Transportation Committee sponsored legislation to address drivers who disregard weight based road closures. That bill was adopted during this past session and will become effective July 1, 2024. It increases the fine for disregarding a weight based road closure from $750.00 to $1,000.00 for the first offense. If there is a second or subsequent offense within three years of the first offense the fine goes to $2,500.00 and a conviction is deemed a reckless driving violation.

 

This legislation applies to all drivers of vehicles weighing less than the posted weight restriction - not just commercial vehicles.

 

The legislation was amended so that the increased fines and violation definition will also apply to not just the new specific short term weight based closures due to wind or weather, but also on places like Teton Pass which has a permanent weight restriction of vehicles less than 60,000 lbs. gvw. year round and has a no trailer traffic restriction usually from October through April, but that can begin or end on different dates depending on weather. I know some of you have members (Utah, Idaho) who travel Teton Pass regularly - please be sure to advise them that if their vehicles weigh more than 60,000 lbs. gvw this new legislation will affect those drivers and I'm anticipating that we will see strict enforcement.


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