Draft Casper Area 'Long Range Transportation Plan' includes total of $917 million in recommendations - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Draft Casper Area ‘Long Range Transportation Plan’ includes total of $917 million in recommendations

The site of the old Hotel Henning on the corner of First and Center Street across from the America Theatre has been a parking lot for decades. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and their consultant Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates have put together a final draft of a Long Range Transportation Plan.

The plan is meant to guide transportation infrastructure improvements in Casper, Evansville, Mills, Bar Nunn and Natrona County over the next 30 years.

The final draft was discussed during the Casper City Council’s Tuesday, Jan. 14 meeting.

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The consultants told the city council that they attempted to spread the recommended projects “equitably” across the community. The recommendations include near-term, medium-term and long-term priorities.

Were all the recommended projects to be implemented, the total cost is estimated at $917 million:

(Casper Area MPO)

The plan is called “Connecting Crossroads.” It will be an update to a plan completed in 2014.

“It is recommended that over half (57%) of available funds are used towards an Enhanced Asset Management Program that ensures the
maintenance and preservation of the existing and future transportation network,” the draft states. “From the remaining funding available, the Recommended Plan provides a list of 55 capital projects for construction at a cost of approximately $397 million through 2048.”

“The Recommended Plan projects are fiscally constrained, meaning that the expected costs for the projects do not exceed expected revenues for transportation investments over the planning horizon.”

Councilman Mike Huber said that he thought the plan should not have included recommendations to connect Wyoming Boulevard to Hat Six Road as part of an East Belt Loop project.

The draft acknowledges that the project has been met with some controversy. That project was moved to the lowest priority among the long-term project recommendations.

Community Development Director Liz Becher said that the MPO began working on the plan in fall 2018, adding that such plans are required to secure federal funding available through the MPO.

The consultant added that workshops and public surveys were conducted to help guide the formation of the plan. The draft identifies a number of recommended transportation infrastructure improvements throughout the Casper area.

Some of those recommendations are intended to address safety concerns at intersections and streets prone to crashes.

Others are meant to address other transportation related issues. One example is a recommendation to convert Casper downtown one-way streets to two-way streets in order to benefit retail in the area.

The plan states that 97% of people in the area drive to work and 88% of people drive alone to work.

The plan identifies five goals for transportation improvement:

• Increase Transportation Options for All Modes
• Improve Safety and Health for All Residents
• Enhance the Region’s Distinct Character
• Support the Region’s Diversifying Economy
• Promote Affordable and Easy Mobility Solutions

“The Casper Area is growing, creating challenges for our current transportation system,” the draft states. “And our population is changing—the number of older adults is growing, and young people are driving less than their parents. People are asking for a wider range of mobility options, and they want safe connections that help them get to where they
need to go.”

“As we developed Connecting Crossroads, we learned about your vision for the future of the Casper Area and your ideas for solutions to help respond to these changes. We heard that Casper Area residents want safe, comfortable, and reliable ways to get around the region. For some that means better biking connections or safer walking conditions; for others, that means a reliable way to drive or an efficient trip to work and services on the bus.”

The draft plan identifies a total off 55 projects, ranging from mixed use paths to road projects. The consultant utilized a scoring model to rank the projects in terms of priority.

Those 55 projects include:

• 7 complete streets projects
• 20 multimodal projects
• 4 intersection improvements projects
• 20 roadway construction projects
• 4 bridge replacement projects

“The projects included in this list are all eligible for Federal, State, or County funds and there may be other funding sources that can be used in the future,” the draft states. “Recommended projects and maintenance spending include all committed projects identified in the Casper Area MPO FY 2020 – 2023 Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP).”

“Additional projects beyond those committed to 2023 are also included to address future year mobility needs and network preservation throughout the Casper Area. Together these projects are the blueprint we will follow to improve the Casper Area’s transportation system over the next three decades.”

A full list of the recommended projects are included in the draft plan.