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Keep building

Jul 8, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

Fremont County's offer on the 17 Mile Road rebuild can keep the job on track

Now that the Fremont County Commission has offered to cover much of the remaining funding needed for the rebuild of 17 Mile Road, every effort ought to be put into completing the unfinished portion of the project.

The reasons for a funding shortfall of more than $2 million on the job are frustrating, and coughing up extra county money was not part of the plan. That is moot at this point, however. Getting the road finished is the priority.

When day-to-day obstacles present themselves on any job, it's easy for the bigger picture to blur (just ask a newspaper editor). In the case of 17 Mile Road, the bigger picture is the cruel and deadly history of the route and the unquestioned need for the highway to be made safer for motorists.

Over the past 20 years, 17 Mile Road developed a well-deserved reputation as one of Wyoming's most-notorious stretches, at least the grisly equal to the span of U.S. Highway 287 south of Laramie, which got far more attention both from the public and from funding entities with their hands on the road construction purse strings.

Unfortunately, 17 Mile Road could hold its own in the undesirable categories of accidents, injuries and fatalities with U.S. 287 or any other highway. It had become a death trap, and improvements of every sort were needed.

Times are harder this year for Fremont County government than they were a few years ago, when the decision to go forward with the Wyoming Department of Transportation's plan to proceed with the rebuild was made. At that time, a request for another million or two from the county would have been easier to swallow.

As it stands today, the county's offer of $400,000 per year for the next three years will be stressful to county coffers if it plays out as expected. It is to the commission's credit that members recognized the importance of the 17 Mile Road project and offered to do what they could to assist when the work's anticipated funding didn't pan out fully.

WYDOT, accept this offer and keep building. The funding picture for 17 Mile Road may have changed, but the necessity of the project is as big as ever.