The Wyoming State Historical Society has published a new book about the controversy and conspiracy that surrounds Interstate 80 and its dangerous past. The book is called Snow Chi Minh Trail: The History of Interstate 80 between Laramie and Walcott Junction.
The 77 mile stretch of interstate is considered especially notorious for its tragic history. The book’s title refers to the mountainous roadway used by North Vietnamese soldiers to reach South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
“Ho chi Minh Trail was fresh in the minds of everyone and all of a sudden now we have this highway that opened that was really bad and there was a lot of crashes and injuries,” said Author John Richard Waggener.
Waggener said residents of south-central Wyoming warned highway officials of the hostile weather conditions, advising against the construction of a road in that area. Despite the warnings, the road was dedicated in October 1970. Four days later, a winter storm created hazardous driving conditions. Although there is no exact record of fatal crashes on the “Snow chi Minh Trail”, Waggener said it’s one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the nation.
“The new piece of I-80 between Laramie and Walcott Junction got built right at the base of the mountains near the community of Arlington, in the little town of Elk Mountain,” he said. “So the road conditions there were a lot worse in the winter.”
The book tells how the stretch of interstate became a testing ground for the highway department, which was able to experiment with new technology for snow fences and snow plows. Large message signs and varying speed limits were also results of the testing done on I-80.
The book is available directly through the Wyoming State Historical Society and elsewhere.