Wyoming bill seeks to secure road funding

| 2/27/2009

Wyoming lawmakers have shown a commitment during the current legislative session to pursuing alternative methods of transportation funding in hopes of squeezing out every last drop of money for roads. One piece of legislation has cleared the statehouse while two others weren’t as fortunate.

House and Senate lawmakers signed off on an effort that 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 – HJ2 – 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.”

While the I-80 funding effort moves on to Washington, a separate effort in Wyoming has been sidelined. It sought to 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 – sought to 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 have been deposited into an existing multilane highway account, which has not been funded. The account pays to add lanes to the state’s most congested highways.

The bill missed a deadline to advance, effectively killing it for the year.

Another bill that has died would have enabled the Wyoming Department of Transportation to make some extra cash. HB47 sought to authorize the department to raise money by providing signs along interstates listing businesses for specific services. WYDOT 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.

The Senate voted 19-11 to kill the bill. House lawmakers previously approved it.

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.