There is no way in or out of Evansville when a train passes through — or stops entirely — and blocks all three access points across Interstate 25 and into Casper.
A fix has been in the works for years, and with a green light from Casper City Council this week, it looks like Evansville residents — and especially emergency vehicles — will no longer be dependent on the whims of the railroad to leave the small town that sits on Casper’s northeast border.
Town engineer Shane Porter said the most obvious option for Evansville has always been to connect with Metro Road across the North Platte River, which would provide access to Casper that could not be blocked by BNSF rail cars.
But to get across the river, the town needed permission to use the bridge to Wyoming Veterans Cemetery, owned by the federal Veterans Administration.
Longtime Evansville mayor Phil Hinds said the town recently secured access to the bridge after representatives from the VA traveled to Evansville and determined the agency had received the 30 years of exclusive use needed to justify its investment.
That, Hinds made clear, was a relief.
“We started out on a $6 million bridge,” Hinds said. With access to the bridge, the town needs to fund only a connection from Cemetery Road to Metro Road, which will cost about $1.2 million, according to a 2015 study.
Concern that a derailed train carrying toxic materials could pose a hazard for town residents and block their ability to leave Evansville prompted officials to plan for the alternate route. The Legislature previously set aside $1 million to pay for the road if all necessary easements and rights of way were secured.
While most of the land between the two existing roads is owned by the state of Wyoming, Evansville needs permission from Casper to build a road on about 1,000 feet of city land immediately to the east of Metro Road.
Councilwoman and former Evansville resident Amanda Huckabay threw her support behind the plan.
“Having worked with a lot of the emergency services organizations in Evansville, this is something they’re constantly bringing up,” she said. “They’re stuck there.”
Porter said the road would likely be paved, but if funding could not be secured, it would be graveled. But Porter agreed to City Manager Carter Napier’s request that the portion of the road running into Caper be paved regardless.
Council agreed to provide a letter of support for the road project.