I-70’s winter traffic jams targeted | VailDaily.com

I-70’s winter traffic jams targeted

Nicole Formosa
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

GOLDEN ” With traffic increasing on the mountain stretch of Interstate 70, state road crews have plans they hope will keep vehicles moving during the winter when snow and crashes can close the freeway.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is expanding its Courtesy Patrol, which already assists stranded motorists, to help truck drivers keep from blocking the main road between the Front Range and Vail Pass.

Heavy truck tow drivers will patrol Vail Pass, the Eisenhower Tunnel and Georgetown during the weekends and holidays in ski season to more quickly clear away semi-trucks that are blocking the road.

“We didn’t have that before and the problem we encountered over the years is when you have trucks that are stranded, unprepared, or just got into an accident on our corridor it closes our highway, and it costs as much as $800,000 an hour every time this highway’s closed,” said Bernie Guevara, a state traffic engineer for the region.

The state is trying to educate truckers so they don’t head into the mountains without chains. But if they do, vendors will be allowed to sell chains along I-70.

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“We are very hopeful that with these programs we will make a difference providing a lot more improved safety and also mobility on this highway,” Guevara said.

As part of its $2.5 million pledge toward increased trucker safety, the state also has finished paving seven new chain-up area along the corridor for a total of 137 new parking spaces, Guevara said.

That’s in addition to the 11 chain-up areas and 185 parking spaces that already existed.

“What this means is we have pretty much maximized what we can do on that corridor,” Guevara said.

Where there’s room, such as the chain-up area on westbound I-70 through Georgetown, crews have built a ditch to separate truck drivers installing chains from regular lanes of traffic.

That technique will be used in East Vail, where a truck driver was struck and killed last week as he removed the chains from his semi, Guevara said, as well the Herman Gulch area on the eastbound side of the Eisenhower Tunnel.

Speed limits will also be lowered near chain-up areas.

To prevent cars from sitting in traffic when the freeway is closed, road crews will try to turn cars around on the Front Range and send them back to the city, said Ken Wissel, a deputy maintenance superintendent.

“We’ll move them right back down into the city where, no, they’re not getting where they want to go, but they can get to facilities, they can get to fuel stops, they can get food service and all the other necessary items that travelers need,” Wissel said.

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