I-70 East Vail speeders beware
Motorists who’ve navigated East Vail’s precarious I-70 sinkhole construction zone in the past month have noticed one thing – perhaps the greatest Colorado State Patrol presence in the valley since the ignoble days of Vail ’99.
Everyone seems to have a story – or know someone who does – about being pulled over in the mile-long construction zone, which sees speed limits gradually reduced from 65 mph descending Vail Pass to just 35 mph in the midst of the work area.
Depending on the time of day, passersby have seen as many as a half-dozen State Patrol cruisers parked behind those who’ve exceeded the zone’s well-posted speed limits. And with construction scheduled for much of the summer, drivers are being warned that East Vail is perhaps the worst place to speed in the entire state.
Eagle’s Jon Crocker learned about the State Patrol’s extra emphasis at the site during a recent Sunday trip through the East Vail gauntlet – emerging with a stinging $250 fine.
“I was heading from Eagle with a carload of kids and my wife and had been following the speed limit all the way through Vail,” Crocker says. “We got stuck in a line with Sunday afternoon traffic and hundreds of cars, with everyone on top of each other. Unfortunately, I was the last car in line as everyone was merging into the right lane – and that’s when I saw the cop facing towards me.”
Crocker was cited for driving 56 mph in a 35 zone. He quickly learned that roadside signs advertising that “fines double in construction zone” mean what they say.
“I’ll admit that I did break the law, but the whole thing did irritate me – it seemed like every other car was going 55 through the construction zone, and the officer who stopped me was literally sitting at the 35 mph sign,” Crocker says. “I bet they could have given out 50 tickets right there if they’d stopped everyone … and I’m sure they’ve had to have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in tickets already.
Sgt. George Dingfelder of the Colorado State Patrol hasn’t added up the fines, but he admits vigorous enforcement has netted approximately 1,000 tickets in the speed zone since June 1.
“That’s rather high compared to our normal enforcement in the area, but it comes with good reason – you’ve got construction people literally standing six inches from the jersey barriers as people pass, and you’ve just got to slow down,” Dingfelder says. “We’re being fairly strict, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s working.”
“Speeders being cited’
Despite ample warnings in each direction on I-70 – with blinking signs warning of the construction zone in two spots on the westbound route, one advertising a very unsubtle “speeders being cited,” Dingfelder says many drivers just don’t seem to get the hint.
“We clocked one guy going 81 mph in the 35 zone, and everyone knows how narrow and sharp those turns are through the detour. And we get every possible excuse –one lady said the weight of her trailer was forcing her to speed. Or you get all these people who say that they really didn’t think the speed limits applied to them.”
Dingfelder says CSP has had good cooperation from commercial truck drivers, most of whom adhere to the construction zone speed limits. He says he’s not quite sure why so many others are unable to scale back their speed.
“I could see it being a bigger problem if the 35 mph zone stretched on for several miles, but it’s really only 35 for maybe a quarter mile, if that. Sadly, the truckers seem like they’re the only ones who are paying attention.”
Heavy enforcement in the sinkhole zone has also yielded a few extra benefits for the state patrol – eight drivers have been arrested for DUIs during speed stops, as well as a number of people picked up for outstanding warrants.
Dingfelder says aggressive enforcement will continue as long as construction continues, and advises drivers to simply follow the posted signs – just as they’ve been doing through Eagle-Vail’s U.S. Highway 6 construction zone.
“We’ve been using common sense about enforcement, with different numbers of officers at different times, but we’re out there,” Dingfelder says. “You’ve just got to slow down.”
Motorists who are heavy on the gas on Interstate 70 through East Vail can find themselves facing some heavy penalties. The Colorado State Patrol’s fines, doubled in the construction zone, are:
– 1 to 9 mph over the posted limit – an $88 fine and one point on your drivers record.
–10 to 19 mph over the limit – a $126 fine and four points on your drivers record.
– 20 to 24 mph over the limit – a $250 fine and six points on your drivers record.
– 25 or more mph over the limit – an immediate summons for mandatory court appearance.