The new “Y” connects North Garner Lake Road and Northern Drive to expand access to various industrial sites from Gillette.
State and County officials headed north Tuesday to open the newly improved intersection of Northern Drive and North Garner Lake Road, after four years of funding its production. The completion of the road work was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the intersection Tuesday afternoon.
The new eight-mile roadway will serve as a second point of access to North Highway 59 and will shave almost 5 miles off the existing route along Highway 14-16.
Many in the community, like Campbell County Commissioner Rusty Bell, are happy to finally see the project come to fruition.
Speaking from the ceremony Tuesday, Bell said that he first became aware of issues regarding Northern Drive in 2015 when groups lobbied to increase access to northern Campbell County from Gillette.
At that time, there was only one route that led into Gillette from the north, and Bell said this caused several issues for energy companies and employees traveling out of town in that direction.
Bell went on to say that Northern Drive had been moved on multiple occasions to troubleshoot a variety of industrial issues prior to this most recent project. The new intersection should provide an ease of access for energy companies or any other commuters, he said, as well as allow for shorter response times for emergency vehicles.
“This road will not only improve things for our coal and oil companies,” Bell said, “but it also creates a whole new form of access to northern Campbell County.”
District Engineer at the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) Scott Taylor agreed that the access granted by the road was a much-needed addition to the county.
He explained that in 2016, WYDOT performed a feasibility survey in which Campbell County residents were asked whether they thought long-term improvements to Northern Drive were necessary.
“The public wanted a new road,” Taylor said Tuesday.
“When we got the survey back, it was clear to everyone that we needed this in Campbell County.”
The reported cost of the project was $34.2 million, according to a WYDOT release. Of that, the State of Wyoming Mineral Impacted Road Account provided $24.2 million. The account was established in 2016 by the Wyoming Legislature.
The other $10 million was split among the county, Contura Coal Inc. and Western Fuels Wyoming Inc. in 2016, after Contura Coal approached the board searching for ways to mine through land that was occupied by HWY 59.
Four years later, the road had finally been opened permanently, with the cut of a ribbon.