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WyDOT lays out five-lane plan

Aug 31, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The job will widen Wyoming Highway 789 south of Riverton, including the bridge over the Little Wind River.

Local residents attended a public meeting Tuesday, Aug. 21, regarding the Riverton South Highway Improvement Project that will widen Wyoming Highway 789 to five lanes for several miles south of Riverton.

The project, which is planned tentatively for 2015, also will require widening of the Little Wind River bridge.

Meeting attendees included House District 34 Rep. Rita Campbell and area landowner Gene Welhouse. They were both able to provide feedback for Wyoming Department of Transportation representatives who described the project last week at Riverton City Hall.

"We are going to try to build the majority of this job within the existing right-of-way," WyDOT construction engineer Keith Compton said. "There are very, very few permits needed."

Work on the highway will include grading, placement of crushed gravel and asphalt pavement surfacing according to WyDOT spokesman Cody Beers, who said his agency would like to send out bids for the project as soon as fall 2014 so work can begin that winter. The project is still in the planning stages now, however, and representatives said they would use Campbell's and Welhouse's comments moving forward. For example, Welhouse asked whether cattle guards would be incorporated on the widened highway, pointing specifically to an intersection near his home.

"That's where all them cattle come through and get on the highway all the time," Welhouse said.

Erik Miller, of Vista West Engineering, the company working with WyDOT on the highway expansion, said cattle guards are usually installed at "frequently used access" points like residential neighborhoods. He said the guards will be part of the highway design process if necessary.

"We haven't gotten that far yet," he said.

Data compiled in 2006 showed 11,650 vehicles and 570 trucks crossed the intersection of Wyoming Highway 789 and Wyoming Highway 135/Gas Hills Road on a daily basis. At Highway 789's junction with Wyoming Highway 137/17 Mile Road, the daily load was 11,000 vehicles and 510 trucks.

Between 1997 and 2006, 150 traffic accidents were documented along Wyoming Highway 789 south of Riverton. Of those crashes, 59 involved wildlife or livestock and 54 involved only vehicles. Twenty-eight of the incidents occurred near an intersection -- usually the junction with Highway 137, Beers said.

"There's a lot of turning there and people are in a hurry so they take chances or run the light," Beers said. "It's just a straight road, but it runs by a housing project, two casinos and two intersections, and it's a major commuting road to Lander and the (Wind River Indian) Reservation."

After hearing about the project, Campbell said she thinks it's a good idea. She asked the WyDOT representatives to look at speed limits along the highway when planning the expansion.

"This is a main thoroughfare for trucks," she said.

Diagrams of the project will be available at Riverton's WyDOT office for anyone interested. Call 856-3202 for more information.

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