How experts reduce danger on Eagle County roads
Vail CO, Colorado
AVON, Colorado ” Get a fresh perspective on what it takes to keep mountain roads safe at the final High Country Speaker Series with Colorado Department of Transportation veteran Ken Wissel Tuesday at the Avon Public Library. The Speaker Series, sponsored by the Eagle Valley Library District and Gore Range Natural Science School, begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Beaver Creek Room.
During winter, the biggest obstacle facing CDOT crews is keeping roads safe from avalanches. Wissel, the Deputy Transportation Maintenance Superintendent for Region One, said there are 104 avalanche paths with the potential to impact highways and Interstate 70. Thirty-eight of these paths are regularly maintained and 20 are within a mile-and-a-half radius of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels.
“We regularly conduct avalanche control work on U.S. 40 in the Berthoud Pass area west of Empire, Colorado, I-70 west of Georgetown to Vail, U.S.Highway 6 on Loveland Pass and the approaches to the tunnel, which technically are off system,” Wissel said. “We also conduct missions in Grand, Clear Creek, Summit and Eagle Counties regularly, plus Lake and Pitkin counties on Highway 82 in the spring before work begins on the opening of Independence Pass.”
Aside from avalanche concerns, the greatest challenge CDOT faces in ensuring highway safety during winter storms is increased traffic.
“Mobility of people to travel and recreate in the mountains has exploded the average daily traffic on all corridors, so the exposure to dangerous conditions just keeps on rising,” Wissel said. “We try and work proactively in keeping the danger as low as possible but it can be a very tedious situation from time to time. Not all danger can be mitigated since this is the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes, all we can accomplish is minimizing it.”
In addition to providing a perspective on the challenges officials face daily in maintaining mountain corridors in the winter, Wissel’s talk will include a visual perspective of avalanche mitigation work.
The High Country Speaker Series is free, but space is limited. Call 949-6797 to register.
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