A WYDOT plow works Interstate 80 on Summit in March 2021 after a historic weekend snowstorm closed many interstates and highways in the state. (WYDOT via Facebook)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Wyoming Department of Transportation is announcing a pilot program to semi-automate variable speed limit signs this winter in an effort to increase safety and to accommodate for Wyoming’s quick-changing weather conditions.

Typically, variable speed limit changes are prompted by WYDOT and Wyoming Highway Patrol personnel driving on that section of highway based on specific criteria like weather conditions.

The new automated program uses data from WYDOT sensors to adjust the speed indicated on the variable speed limits when employees may not be in the area to initiate the changes themselves. This results in quicker speed adjustments, which can match how quickly conditions change on Wyoming highways.

“The automation still has a human component,” said Vince Garcia, WYDOT Intelligent Transportation Systems program manager. “Speed limit changes prompted by the program can be adjusted or even vetoed by a boots-on-the-ground employee like a trooper or highway maintainer.”

For example, if sensors indicate traffic can resume normal interstate speeds but there is an active crash investigation and cleanup in the area, troopers can hold the lower speed limit to protect first responders and keep the traveling public safe.

The program will start with two sections of variable speed limits, one located along Interstate 80 between Laramie and Rawlins and another on Wyoming Highway 28 over South Pass. If the program is successful, it can be expanded around the state.

Drivers are reminded that the speed indicated on the variable speed limit signs is the legal speed limit. Motorists should always drive according to current conditions and be ready to adjust speeds in case of changing road and weather conditions.

Road conditions, variable speed limit information and more can be found on the Wyoming 511 tools, including the website www.wyoroad.info and the Wyoming 511 app.