Wyoming bills seek to secure road funding

| 1/29/2009

Wyoming lawmakers are busy working on legislation intended to secure revenue to pay for roads, bridges and transit. While time-tested methods continue to draw consideration, other more creative efforts are also being sought to squeeze out every last drop of money with the intention of putting it into transportation.

An effort in the Wyoming Legislature asks the federal government to meet its obligation to adequately fund improvements and maintenance of Interstate 80 in the state.

House Joint Resolution 2 points out that the 402-mile highway serves as “an essential link between the east and west coasts ... and is a vital freight corridor critical to the commerce of our nation.”

It is estimated in the measure that half of all traffic on the Wyoming portion of the roadway is made up of large trucks, which are blamed for causing greater damage than other vehicles. Figures show that traffic is expected to increase from 6,899 trucks per day now to 22,300 per day in 2049.

The resolution advises Congress that current federal funding available to Wyoming for I-80 is insufficient. As a result, the financial strain on the state “is jeopardizing the operational health of one of the nation’s crucial freight corridors.”

A separate effort in Wyoming would tap into the state’s mineral severance tax to benefit transportation funding. The tax is levied on resources extracted in the state.

The bill – HB45 – would generate about $122 million annually for highways by diverting a portion of the tax revenue that now is funneled into the Legislature’s reserve fund.

Another $30 million would be deposited into an existing multilane highway account that has not been funded. The account pays to add lanes to the state’s most congested highways.

One more bill – HB47 – would authorize the Wyoming Department of Transportation to raise money via signage along interstates for restaurants and lodging. The agency now can charge fees only to recoup the costs of posting and upkeep for signs.

According to a fiscal analysis of the bill, implementing a bidding process for commercial signage could generate $300,000 annually for transportation.

HB47 is awaiting final consideration on the House floor. HJ2 and HB45 are in the Legislature’s Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Wyoming in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.