Lights out on Dowd Junction I-70 stretch
Vail, CO Colorado
DOWD JUNCTION, Colorado – Ever driven through Dowd Junction at night and not only noticed that the majority of the highway lights are out, but that one will burn out right before your very eyes just as you pass under it?
There’s a reason for the darkness through Dowd, and the Colorado Department of Transportation estimates the long-term solution would cost about $1 million.
The wiring for the lighting through Dowd Junction sits underground and needs to be fully replaced, said Ashley Mohr, spokeswoman for CDOT. The project is already designed, she said, but the money is not there.
“The plans are sitting on the shelf,” Mohr said.
The project has moved down on the Department of Transportation’s priority list while other projects around the state have been bumped up, she said, adding that the Dowd Junction interchange project is also designed and ready to go, but likely won’t happen for another six to 10 years.
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“They’re on our list to get them fixed as soon as possible,” Mohr said.
There are some short-term maintenance fixes that Mohr said can happen as soon as the ground thaws. Crews can go in and fix some of the wiring, which will get the lights turned back on at least in time for next winter.
But, Mohr said the long-term fix is needed so crews don’t have to continue going out to service the wiring so often.
The darkness has caught the attention of the Eagle County commissioners. Commissioner Jon Stavney said the county is crafting a letter to CDOT asking for the project to move up on the priority list.
“It’s awful dark between Dowd and Edwards over one of the most dangerous stretches of I-70,” Stavney said.
Eagle County spokeswoman Kris Friel said the county’s engineering department is drafting a letter this week to send to the Department of Transportation essentially asking for the lights to be fixed. The county commissioners will then review the letter before it’s finalized, signed and sent to CDOT, she said.
Mohr said there are “a lot of accidents” in Dowd Junction, and CDOT sees a correlation between accidents and winter months, especially when there’s a lot of snow and bad weather.
Combine that with a narrow canyon, some of which is shaded, heavy traffic and a lot of truckers, and the stretch of roadway can be scary at times.
Mohr said 70 percent of the accidents in Dowd Junction happen during winter. CDOT has put safety measures in place, such as guard rails and a lower speed limit through Dowd Junction, to decrease accidents and accident injuries, she said.
“Fifteen percent of accident typically have an injury, but in Dowd Junction it’s 8 percent,” Mohr said.
Mohr said the lighting through Dowd Junction is also a safety measure. CDOT crews have been working where they can this winter to make improvements along the interstate. Right now, for example, crews are making some improvement in Avon where the ground has thawed more quickly than a few miles upvalley around Dowd Junction.
“Because the winter is the more dangerous of the seasons, they’ve been kind of working through wherever they can,” Mohr said.
When Dowd Junction is ready for maintenance, Mohr expects the work to happen by the fall, in time to shine lights down on the roadway next winter. Part of the problem in getting that work done has also been due to CDOT being short-staffed, she said, but the department finally got some funding to hire another much-needed electrician.
Luckily, Mohr said, this winter has been a light winter in terms of bad weather and dangers on the roadways. Mohr said the short-term fixes must and will happen before next winter, however.
“Our maintenance crews will take care of (the underground wiring) to get it up and running,” she said, adding that CDOT’s goal is ultimately to do the larger project for a long-term fix. “We’re not going to always try to be chasing our tails. As soon as we get the funding, then we’ll move forward with that.”
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.