Whose Dumb Idea Was It To Build Wyoming’s I-80 Where It is?
I was having breakfast with some friends and they were telling me the tale of an old Indian chief who warned the highway department not to put that new stretch of interstate where they were putting it. The wind was horrible year-round and the winters were abysmal.
If we believe the way my friends told the story, the president's wife wanted the road there because it went by some beautiful mountains, like Medicine Bow. I'm not sure that story is true the way they tell it, but I do know that those who put the Wyoming stretch of I-80 where it is were warned.
A book was written a few years back named Snow Chi Minh Trail which tells the tale of what a mistake the location of I-80 has been. The author writes about the infamous interstate’s reputation and how Wyoming locals wanted the interstate to follow existing U.S. Highway 30.
Wyomingites knew the weather of the region. The wind that blows and is squeezed through and between the Laramie and Walcott Junction is compressed, making it worse. I mean more than 100 mile per hour gusts worse. But locals were not listened to.
“The air moves from West to East — the path of least resistance,” said the author in his book. “It moves fast. The winds clocked over 100 mph. Eighty to 100 mph is not uncommon in that area.”
Folks who drive that stretch in the winter usually take winter survival gear with them, just in case.
In the book, the author explains “In 1959, there was a debate on the Senate floor in Washington. The I-80 routing debate got so heated, it called for a special hearing.”
I'm still trying to find out how the final decision was made to place that stretch of the interstate where it is. The best I can come up with so far is: it's government, they usually make bad decisions.
Wrecks of all sizes of vehicles are common as are pileups. In just February of 2021 that stretch of highway was closed 14 times.
A couple of years ago I jokingly and told my radio audience that WYDOT will no longer tell us when I-80 is closed. Rather, they will just let us know when it is open.
Later, I found a song about I-80 being closed written by a Wyoming man that perfectly tells the tale of how often that stretch of road is closed in the winter.
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