Road crews will soon be out in force across Wyoming, and there will be more work going on this year thanks to the state's new 10-cent per gallon fuels tax.
Nineteen of about 140 road projects planned for this fiscal year will be funded by the new tax, Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Dave Kingham said. So far, 16 projects worth about $45 million have been contracted out with the new fuels tax money.
"The vast majority of them are pavement milling and overlays," Kingham said. "There's some bridge rehabilitation."
The 2013 Legislature enacted the tax, which took effect last July 1, after the Wyoming Department of Transportation warned that the state's road system was deteriorating faster than crews could repair it because of a lack of money. The tax is expected to raise about $70 million a year, with two-thirds earmarked for maintaining the state highway system.
The Legislature stipulated that the money raised by the new tax for transportation department projects be used to maintain the current highway system. The money can't be used to install a new interchange or build a new highway.
Kingham said the projects funded with the fuels tax this year would not have been done otherwise and the backlog of needed road maintenance would have grown.
"These projects are just ones that have been next up on that list, but we didn't have the money to do before we started getting the increased fuel tax," he said.
The transportation department maintains a list of road- and bridge-maintenance projects that changes year to year as new projects are added and others are addressed and taken off the list. The list had been growing in recent years because of the lack of money has forced the department to delay the road work.
The fuels tax has boosted the number of projects on the list that the department can check off, although the list itself may not be whittled down much because more projects are being added every year under regular maintenance schedules.
"It's sort of a domino effect," Kingham said. "As we've been able to move up these projects into 2014 and move other projects into '15 and '16, which means as you work down the line that will allow us to add new projects."