Dam Road pop-up barrier pops off bumper | VailDaily.com

Dam Road pop-up barrier pops off bumper

Ashley Dickson
Summit County CO, Colorado
Mark Fox/Summit Daily NewsSUMMIT COUNTY " A Honda Odyssey sits on the Dillon Dam Road after it ran into a metal barrier, which was suddenly actived Thursday afternoon. The van was traveling approximately 10 mph when it slammed into the barrier, causing the air bags to be deployed. No injuries were reported or other vehicles involved in the incident

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” A controversial automated pop-up barrier meant to ward off oversized vehicles on the Dillon Dam Road malfunctioned Thursday afternoon, snaring a passenger vehicle and severely damaging it.

The barrier, meant as a security device after the Denver Water Board determined last summer that the dam faced unspecified threats, is intended as a last defense in the event that a large truck or other potentially threatening vehicle enters the restricted roadway.

It was an apparent malfunction that caused the barrier to release spontaneously on Thursday, knocking off the front bumper off a 2004 Honda Odyssey.

The driver, who wished to remain anonymous, was driving the Dam Road from Frisco to Dillon when the car in front of him slowed to a crawl.

“We were going less than 5 m.p.h. We were basically stopped,” the driver said. “I had no idea (the barrier) was coming up, but it felt like a big hit.”

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The impact of the crash caused the van’s airbags to deploy, and although no one was injured in the accident, the driver was left shaken.

“It was very shocking, because I had no idea what was happening,” the driver said. “Just imagine if I had been doing 45 m.p.h. and that thing had popped up. I would be dead.”

A Denver Water security guard stationed on the Dam Road quickly responded, and troopers from the Colorado State Patrol arrived to investigate.

Denver Water officials at the scene assured the driver that the damages to the car would be covered at the utility’s expense, and they arranged a rental car for him to use while his van is getting repaired.

“I haven’t decided yet about any legal action,” the driver said. “Right now, I am just happy to be all right.”

The pop-up barriers were installed on either end of the dam as part of a mutual agreement between Denver Water and the Summit County government.

Denver Water crews still are in the process of working out the mechanics of the barriers, and minor work was being done the same day the barrier malfunctioned.

“We don’t know what caused it to go off, and we might not know for another couple of days while we investigate what happened,” Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “The barriers are now in safe mode, so drivers can rest assured that they wont go off when the road is open.”

Although relations between Denver Water and the county have improved in recent months, this latest hiccup does generate concern from some county officials.

“We understand that this was an accident, and we will wait to see what the final report says,” Summit County Sheriff John Minor said. “We need to find out why this happened, because we certainly don’t want it happening again.”

In other news, a collection of Summit County government agencies and emergency departments on Thursday dropped their lawsuit against Denver Water for closing the Dam Road last July.

The complaint was filed in Summit County District Court and, in an attempt to fast-track an agreement, Judge Terry Ruckriegle directed the two sides to enter mediation to come up with a short-term solution.

On July 25, the two sides drafted an intergovernment agreement that allowed for the reopening of the road to traffic with security barriers to prevent larger vehicles from crossing.

This fall, Denver Water installed “pop-up” barriers on either end of the dam that can be activated remotely should a vehicle over 13,000 pounds attempt to cross.

Vehicles pulling trailers, RVs and cargo vans are prohibited from crossing the dam, and drivers that fail to obey the traffic-control device will be fined $100.

Emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances have been granted uninhibited access to the road, and departments should be receiving access cards by the end of December that will deactivate the barriers should emergency crews need to cross the road.

Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at adickson@summitdaily.com.

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