SHERIDAN — Two “fantastic” fall seasons have permitted workers to expedite construction on the North Sheridan Interchange, but rights of way negotiations have currently slowed down progress until an agreement is reached.
Construction on the interchange started in August 2016 with a $46.4 million initial budget. The projected completion — Oct. 31, 2019 — is still set and project leaders are confident they will meet that deadline. However, an unforeseen disconnect in 17th Street and Fort Road is currently causing those managers pause.
Before Wyoming Department of Transportation managers put the project out for bid, railroad tracks crossed North Main Street. Following the letting, or bidding, process, the city of Sheridan was able to remove the railroad tracks. Resident engineer for WYDOT Jeff Buckley said the managers decided to realign 17th Street and Fort Road.
If rights of way were agreed upon for the project, parts of two parcels of land would need to be purchased by WYDOT and reconstructed to make a more perpendicular intersection.
The two properties in discussion are owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, according to the Sheridan Joint Land Use Plan and county GIS map. WYDOT employees could not confirm nor deny the owner of the land in question. BNSF has not conceded to the state’s requests, and construction in that area has been temporarily completed with light paving until negotiations change. The right of way would take an additional several thousand square feet of land from landowner.
“I don’t know when we’ll have an answer for that,” Buckley said. “That’s why we decided to pave it because it wasn’t looking good.”
Project engineer Elliott Bauder agreed, saying the big question right now is when that might change.
Many spliced intersections are located throughout the city of Sheridan, but Buckley said if the opportunity arises to fix it, WYDOT would prefer it.
Aside from the ongoing negotiations causing the project to slow down, another part of the project focused on improving documentation for that area of Sheridan. What was once just the internal knowledge of one city worker on where all the utility lines lie is now being documented thoroughly by WYDOT.
WYDOT personnel continue to eliminate the need for traffic cones, but engineers said construction zone rules still apply and safe speeds are a must. For speeds less than 6 miles per hour over the legal speed limit, drivers might be fined $65 then $2 for each additional mile per hour. For speeds more than 20 miles per hour in the construction zone, fines start at $195 plus $7 for each additional mile per hour.
The city has begun beautification plans including an extended walking path that leads to what will soon be a park. Trees have been planted; classic lighting to match the Main Street historic area is in the process of being installed; and signs welcoming drivers to Sheridan have been resurrected but not engraved.
Despite the hold-up with rights of way, WYDOT engineers will continue working on wrapping up the project.
*Note: The print version of this article incorrectly stated the businesses in discussion with WYDOT regarding rights of way. The online version has been corrected to reflect the correct owner of the land. The Press regrets this error.