A local planning organization estimates more than $141 million in road repair and transportation-related projects in the Casper area over the next four years. Those projects include repaving sidewalks, installing street lights, interstate construction and new buses for the Casper Area Transportation Coalition.
The Casper Area Metropolitan Planning Organization held a public information session July 17 to discuss those projects with residents. The projects are being considered in Casper, Mills, Bar Nunn, Evansville, Natrona County and those under the purview of the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
The projects are detailed in a report the planning organization is federally mandated to compile every four years. That report, the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program, forces an area to look at its short-term transportation goals. The state is also required to submit a similar plan.
WYDOT is planning a $23 million reconstruction of Interstate 25 between Center and Poplar streets for 2022. WYDOT anticipates receiving federal grant money to complete that project.
In Mills, a $2 million project to add a safety island, street lights and a pedestrian tunnel to a portion of Wyoming Boulevard is on the books for 2021. That money would come from both local 1-cent funds and federal grant programs.
Casper’s Midwest Avenue remodel is included, as are $500,000 worth of improvements to the Center Street underpass. That project would begin in 2022, and the money would come from 1-cent allocations.
While these projects making it onto the short-term list is a good sign, it’s still unclear where all of the money will come from.
“It’s not a promise they’re going to get funding,” said Aaron Kloke, the planning organization’s supervisor. “But it’s saying of all the projects, these are the ones we’re prioritizing in the next four years.”
He said it’s important to list those projects even if there’s no funding certainty.
“A plan is just a plan, and we know we need to stay flexible,” he said.
At the same time the planning organization has been working on this four-year update, it has also been writing a new long-range transportation plan. The difference is that the long range plan takes the 30-year view.
Kloke said when writing that plan, which the federal government requires metropolitan planning organizations to update every five years, the No. 1 question is “How do you want to see the community grow in the future?”
That plan is more aspirational and asks residents to anticipate what will be important to quality of life in the long term.
Kloke said that includes addressing Casper’s growing need for public transportation, demand for which has exploded in recent years and continues to increase every week.
Another factor Kloke considers when taking the big picture view of Casper’s future is safety, such as how safe people feel walking or riding their bike down a busy street.
Writing the long-range plan takes considerable public input. Public comment is open until Aug. 14 for the version Kloke is currently working on, and that information is also available on the planning organization’s website.