Wyoming DOT Broadens Road Data Availability

The Wyoming Department of Transportation is working to improve highway safety and facilitate the efficient movement of freight by sharing road-closure data directly with Google and other navigation companies.

[Above photo by WYDOT]

Expanding access to road-closure data is especially critical in March and April, the agency said, as those two months are historically the state’s snowiest.

Darin Westby. Photo via Wyoming DOT.

“WYDOT is constantly innovating and adapting to the challenges of Wyoming’s harsh winters and meeting our mission to keep people and commerce moving,” said WYDOT Director Darin Westby in a statement.

“Last winter saw too many close calls and we are excited to arrive at a practical solution that will keep both travelers and search-and-rescue responders safer,” he added.

WYDOT noted that navigational applications generally report road closures and recommend alternate routes based on data collected from other drivers who are using the app.

However, information about infrequently traveled, local roads may not be updated often enough to reflect fast-changing conditions. For example, some motorists who followed suggested detours off I-80 in Wyoming ended up stranded on inaccessible roads without fuel, food, or water.

[Editor’s note: The agency discussed its progress on this project in a video issued several months ago.]

That situation also created hazards for the Wyoming Highway Patrol and other emergency responders tasked with finding and rescuing these motorists. Road closures and ill-advised detours during just one storm in 2023 resulted in 28 search-and-rescue missions in Sweetwater County alone, WYDOT noted.

To help prevent such emergencies, the agency has expanded third-party access to a powerful tool known as the Situation Data Exchange or SDX. WYDOT partner Trihydro, an engineering and environmental consulting firm based in Laramie, developed the SDX in support of the Wyoming Connected Vehicle Pilot; a WYDOT project funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Photo by WYDOT

The SDX stores and distributes data collected from wirelessly connected vehicles, including WYDOT fleet vehicles and snowplows. WYDOT said it also consults with individual counties to include information on local and conditional closures.

Navigation companies with access to the SDX will have a new, reliable source of real-time travel information including weather advisories, variable speed limits, road closure notifications, and vehicle weight restrictions.

WYDOT began by reaching out to Google, which has entered into an agreement with Trihydro to be a third-party distributor of SDX data through Google Maps.

“WYDOT has collaborated with Trihydro’s SDX team to design and implement an exemplary messaging system that maximizes coordination between Wyoming’s jurisdictional levels and navigation companies to create and relay road incident updates and closures,” said Eric Kolb, GIS Senior Staff Data Engineer-Google Maps.

“The SDX provides Wyoming’s high-quality data in the desired format through a convenient interface, all of which reduces Google Maps’ effort to acquire and translate Wyoming’s road incident updates into its navigation database,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure working with the WYDOT and Trihydro teams to both understand and encourage their motivations and capabilities.”

WYDOT added that it hopes to finalize agreements with Apple and other navigation system providers in the near future to ensure that accurate, up-to-date travel information is available to as many motorists as possible. Meanwhile, the agency said it continues to coordinate with the USDOT to expand access to the SDX.

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