Pickup trucks head west on Highway 59 away from the Powder River Basin energy fields and toward Douglas as evening light takes hold of the Laramie Mountains on a winter day.
The highway runs from Douglas to Gillette, and is as accurate a barometer of the hum of Wyoming’s energy industry as any oil price index. Oil and gas traffic ebbs and flows with the industry, while coal miners and energy workers use the road daily — heading to mines from Gillette and Douglas and points in between. Some call the road the “Coal Miner 500” — a crack at the high speeds some miners drive to get home.
Traffic spiked on the highway in recent years with an increase in pipeline construction and oil and gas activity. Fatalities also increased, according to a March 2019 report in the Douglas Budget.