More troopers headed to mountains |

More troopers headed to mountains

Nicole Formosa
Vail, CO Colorado
Mark Fox/Summit DailySgt. Tim Maestas checks the speed of vehicles traveling west out of Eisenhower Tunnel this past May.

FRISCO ” By this spring, there will be up to seven new troopers to help patrol hundreds of miles of roadway in Summit and Clear Creek counties.

The group should graduate from the academy in January and finish field training by the end of March, putting them on patrol by April, Capt. Ron Prater said.

“We’re really excited about this development,” said Prater, who’s been pushing for more troopers for a few years. “The additional staffing ” we feel that it’s justified because of the nature of the I-70 corridor and the kinds of the calls we have here.”

Even though getting new troopers is nothing new ” every six months headquarters allocates staff to the troop ” the number of incoming officers is.

“Instead of getting one or two or three, we’re getting seven,” Prater said.

Prater said the additional troopers should put the force “back to where it should be.”

He hopes that more manpower will allow him to double up some of the shifts. Instead of eking by with one trooper per shift, per county, four troopers between both counties could be on the road at the same time.

That means stretches of roadway like Highway 9 between Frisco and Breckenridge, Highway 40 in Clear Creek County and Highway 9 north of Silverthorne will get more attention.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to hit some of these areas where we have a lot of drivers out of control,” Prater said.

As it stands, troopers concentrate mostly on the portion of Interstate 70 that runs through Clear Creek and Summit counties. The agency has designated a six-mile stretch of the interstate near the Eisenhower Tunnel a “safe zone” ” an area where resources are focused in an attempt to reduce the high number of accidents.

Prater credited Rep. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, and state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon, for helping to draw attention at the staff shortage.

Gibbs sponsored a beefed-up chain law last legislative session that will raise the fine for truckers who don’t chain up when restrictions are in place.

Along with the new law, the Department of Public Safety regulatory requirements now say semi-truck drivers must carry chains in their vehicles from Sept. 1 to May 1, which the state patrol will enforce.

Prater said the new chain law probably played a part in the increased trooper allotment, but chain law enforcement is only a small part of troopers’ daily duties.

While Prater recognized the importance a larger staff, he also acknowledged that all seven cadets may not make it through the academy and field training. Also, the new number doesn’t take into account existing staff that may resign or be transferred to another unit between now and April, Prater said.

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