CHEYENNE, Wyo. — For the first time in recent memory, Wyoming Highway 130 through the Snowy Range won’t be open by Memorial Day, the Wyoming Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.
For the past two weeks, WYDOT crews from Laramie and Saratoga have each been battling through the highest snow levels seen in the Snowies in at least four decades. Drifts of water-heavy snow reach 20 feet or higher.
What’s more, additional snow has fallen on the workers every day since they started clearing Wyoming 130 — including 1½ feet of new snow last week — forcing them to replow areas to get back to where they left off, a WYDOT media release stated.
WYDOT’s also had to divert personnel and equipment in recent days to clear other snow-choked roads and deliver truckloads of sand to hold back the floodwaters of the Little Snake River in Baggs.
“Mother Nature won,” WYDOT District 1 Engineer Jay Gould said in the release.
As of Monday, the crews working on each side remained six miles apart. The Laramie side had advanced four miles, while 2½ miles had been cleared on the Saratoga side — about half their normal progress in recent years, according to the release.
It could take another week to a week and a half before the road finally opens to traffic, said Tim McGary, WYDOT’s district maintenance engineer for southeast Wyoming. But McGary said it’s tough to make an exact prediction. “Every time we try to make a guess, something happens,” he said.
Last year WYDOT spent more than $270,000 to open Wyoming 130 by Memorial Day weekend, according to the release. McGary said that barring “some kind of miracle,” this year’s snow-clearing efforts will likely cost even more than that, though exact numbers won’t be available until the job’s done.