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Working Together to Make I-70 Work

February 13, 2014 - Denver Metro Colorado (CDOT Region 1)/Northeastern Colorado (CDOT Region 4) - CDOT suggesting new strategies to address in mountain corridor drive during adverse weather and heavy volume.

The numbers say it all.  On Sunday, February 9, CDOT’s Courtesy Patrol program relocated 22 vehicles on eastbound I-70 between Silverthorne and Eisenhower Tunnel.  Of the 22 vehicles, 19 had bald tires and 18 had in state plates.  The 22 were only a small fraction of the spun out vehicles that needed assistance which contributed to the heavy congestion and delayed commute for motorists last Sunday.  Additionally, CDOT’s Heavy Tow program towed 11 commercial vehicles that lost traction on the steep approach to Eisenhower Tunnel, 3 of which did not employ chains as required by law.  Lanes blocked by spun out passenger and commercial vehicles caused delays to increase at an astounding rate to where CDOT was forced to close eastbound I-70 in order to allow the traffic and dozens of accidents and spun out vehicles to be cleared.

“Driving in the mountain is a privilege that many of us take for granted,” said CDOT’s Executive Director Don Hunt.  “As someone who lives in the mountain corridor, I know that a number of factors can take an easy drive and turn it into a nightmare.  At CDOT, we are constantly looking at new ways to better serve the traveling public with better traffic management and maintenance.  But success on I-70 West also relies on a partnership with our drivers, who play a big role in helping the roads run smoothly, even doing little things like inspecting your tires for good tread before you leave.”

Following last Sunday, CDOT has been working with incident responders and other stakeholders to enhance strategies that allow CDOT to better address conditions like those over the weekend where a combination of snow pack and heavy volume resulted in significant delays.  Some ski resorts are reporting this winter as having the most snowfall in over 10 years and that it is far and above a more challenging winter than the past two ski seasons.  “These are some of the most challenging conditions we have seen in the mountain corridor.  Over the course of last winter, we did not have any peak travel days that compare to what happened last Sunday,” said CDOT’s Transportation Systems Management & Operations Director Ryan Rice.  “Our goal is to anticipate when this might happen and employ measures that will alleviate the pressures on the traffic system while still getting people home.”

Among the strategies that CDOT will be considering:

•      Improve passenger vehicle traction through possible sale of chains and alternative traction devices at chain stations and on ramps at Silverthorne, Frisco Copper Mountain, and Vail.

•      Schedule more CDOT snow plow crews to supplement the existing crews in Summit County and Clear Creek County.

•      Work with the ski resorts and car rental companies to ensure that passenger vehicle traction devices are available for purchase by their customers and the customers are aware of their availability.

•      Work with Colorado State Patrol to conduct passenger vehicle traction checks at on ramps to eastbound I-70 at Silverthorne, Frisco, Copper Mountain, and Vail.

•      Implement traffic control at ski resorts to manage volume prior to vehicles leaving the resort to reduce the delays, stranded vehicles, accidents and spin outs on routes to I-70.

•      When conditions require, eliminate eastbound hazmat carrier escorts through Eisenhower Tunnel, when Loveland Pass is closed, beginning at 9AM and resuming when delays have subsided.

•      When conditions require, close eastbound I-70 to commercial motor vehicles at Dotsero when road conditions and traffic volumes are such that a public safety emergency is likely and imminent.

•      Expand CDOT’s I-70 West Courtesy Patrol to aid and assist stranded motorists with disabled vehicles.

•      Continue tunnel safety metering at Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels to ensure tunnel is safe for emergency vehicles.

•      When necessary, escort traffic from Silverthorne to Georgetown to ensure safe driving speeds on the route and when exiting Eisenhower Tunnel.

•      Continue to promote traveler information as well as encourage travelers to Change their Peak Time and take advantage of deals available at GoI70.com.

“When you have hundreds of Colorado residents reaching out, as they did after last Sunday, suggesting that we limit road access to only vehicles with four wheel drive, something that statute actually does allow, you realize that the public understands their part in helping to ensure the success of keeping I-70 West moving,” adds Rice.  “We will be working with the public, our mountain partners and our incident responders to educate drivers that prepared cars that have vehicle traction devices or even inflated tires with good tread are critical.”

To receive real-time updates about road conditions in your area, visit www.coloradodot.info and click on the green cell phone icon in the upper right hand corner of the page. Information about weekly lane closures will be available at www.coloradodot.info/travel/scheduled-lane-closures.html. Live road conditions are available at www.cotrip.org, downloading the CDOT Mobile app or by calling 511 from anywhere in the state. Updates are also available via Twitter@coloradodot and be sure to “Like” our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/coloradodot.