The Wyoming Department of Transportation is closing 10 rest areas located throughout the state effective June 15 to reduce costs due to budgetary shortfalls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
[Above photo via Wikimedia Commons.]
The rest area closures will result in a savings to the Wyoming DOT of approximately $197,453 from June 15 through September 30, which is the end of the agency’s fiscal year. After that, the department will save about $789,812 per year.
“This is a painful reality but a necessary step given our state’s fiscal situation,” Governor Mark Gordon (R) said in a statement. “This will have real impacts, not only for travelers, but for the custodial staff contracted to provide services to these facilities. These workers are our friends and neighbors in Wyoming communities around the state.”
K. Luke Reiner, director of the Wyoming DOT, said his agency sent letters to local community leaders and the contractors who work at the rest areas notifying them of the closures.
“We took a hard look at all of our rest areas and came up with a list of those that we feel we can close with a minimal amount of impact to our travelers,” he explained.
“It was a hard decision but one that we came to based on the needs of the public and to ensure we maintain a balanced budget,” he noted.
Reiner added that each of the rest areas being shuttered are “within a reasonable distance” of a town that has facilities for the public.
Closing those rest areas is part of a broader move by Gov. Gordon to prepare Wyoming’s state agencies to reduce spending and prepare for deeper cuts in the coming months due to revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are in uncharted territory,” he explained in a June 4 statement. “To be sure, the data that we used to model these revenue shortfalls are preliminary, and therefore still a bit unclear, but there can be no doubt we will see a continuing steep decline. In any event, our approach to the significant cuts we will have to make must be done strategically, with purpose, and in a manner that assures Wyoming can recover rapidly.”
For spending reductions, Gov. Gordon outlined outlined a phased plan to be coordinated closely with the legislative branch; a plan that requires state agency directors to identify and explain programs to eliminate by July 1, along with the consequences of those proposals.