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Wyoming 789, Widens Expands to the North

Wed December 28, 2011 - West Edition
Jennifer Rupp

U.S. 26/Wyoming 789 was widened from two to five lanes in what is known as the Bryant Section, in order to service the growing community on the north side of Riverton.

“There has been recent residential and commercial growth north of Riverton,” explained Cody Beers, public relations specialist of Northwest Wyoming. “About five miles north of Riverton, the highway was already widened to five lanes, so this section connects to it and improves capacity in a growing area.”

In the late ’40s and early ’50s, Riverton was a larger producer of sugar beets, and farmers still grow sugar beets in 2011. In 1953, uranium was discovered in the Gas Hills, east of Riverton. The uranium industry transformed Riverton from a quiet farming community of 2,500 people into a bustling commercial center of more than 10,000. Although market forces brought dramatic cutbacks in area mining during the 1980s, Riverton had become the largest community in west-central Wyoming, and today it is a commercial center that attracts people from a wide area. Today, oil and gas fuels the area economy, and uranium mining may soon again boost the regional economy.

Residents from nearby smaller towns also frequent Riverton for the shopping opportunities. Along with various department stores, book retailers, hardware stores and furniture shops, Riverton boasts the only Walmart Supercenter in a hundred mile radius.

To the east, west and south, Riverton is bordered by the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The Wind River Indian Reservation spans 2.2 million acres and is home to 2,500 Eastern Shoshone and more than 5,000 Northern Arapaho Native Americans. Although the two tribes own and govern the reservation jointly, most of the Shoshone live in the western half around Fort Washakie, while the Arapahos have settled around Ethete and Arapahoe. (

Prime contractors Rice-Kilroy Construction Co. Inc. of Dubois and High Country Construction Co. of Lander are the prime contractors on the $11.91 million Bryant Section highway improvement project. The companies, through a joint venture, are responsible for grading, draining, asphalt milling, placing crushed gravel base, asphalt paving, removal and replacement of fencing and cattle guards, and other work on 5.74 mi. (9.2 km) of U.S. 26/Wyoming 789, beginning at milepost 109.67 between Riverton and Shoshoni.

The work launched in July 2010 and the five lanes were open for use in October 2011. Seeding and reclamation will commence this spring and the project will wrap up by the end of June 2012.

Subcontractor McGarvin-Moberly Construction of Worland began paving last August and completed the task in October. Quantities included 66,425 tons (60,260 t) of asphalt pavement in the first two lifts and another lift of 9,800 tons (8,890 t) of wearing course asphalt to complete the project. Crews worked Monday through Saturday in 12-hour shifts.

Other subcontractors on the project include Slaton Bros. Inc. of Centennial, Colo. hired to construct a retaining wall, and Riverton-based concrete contractor Jerry Bornhoft Construction. B&F Enterprises, headquartered in Lander, is in charge of fencing and S&L Industrial of Cowley is handling traffic control.

“The wet area posed a challenge for us,” noted Beers. “The roadway had to be built up much higher than the ground on each side, and many drainage pipes were installed.” Any official “wetlands” that were dug out were required to be reconstructed nearby.

Crews excavated 304,317 cu. yds. (232,667 cu m) of earthwork to create the fill for the new lanes on the project. Approximately 200 cu. yds. (153 cu m) of concrete was used to facilitate the new irrigation structures that provide water for the fields on both sides of the road. Traffic flowed smoothly through the construction zone, with two lanes remaining open at all times.

“This was a good project to improve safety and capacity of U.S. 26,” commented Beers. “The expansion helps us look to the continued prosperity of the Riverton area.” CEG

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