Traffic trifecta in Eagle County on Sunday
MINTURN, Colorado – It was not Minturn’s trick-or-treaters that caused motorists hit the traffic trifecta Sunday, so you can stop it right this minute.
Motorists found themselves in stop and go traffic for hours Sunday afternoon when a tractor-trailer crash spilled hazardous liquid on Vail Pass, closing I-70.
It was a three-way tangle:
• First, a truck crash spilled 4,950 gallons of a methanol-based mixture, closing westbound I-70 for seven hours. Traffic was rerouted Highway 91 at Copper Mountain and over Fremont Pass to Leadville, then to Highway 24 and over Tennessee Pass from Leadville to Minturn.
• Second, road construction has Highway 24 choked down to one lane near where Highway 24 crosses under I-70 near Eagle-Vail.
• Third, traffic was slowed in Minturn because of the town’s annual trick-or-treat night and Halloween celebration. But then, it was slowed anyway because of the massive volume.
So, can a small town’s trick-or-treaters cause that much trouble?
“I don’t think so,” said Trooper Nate Reid with the Colorado State Patrol.
There was an upside for Minturn’s Halloween revelers, who did not cause any of this mess.
“We had a successful evening,” said Lisa Osborne with the Minturn police department. “We made 1,000 goodie bags in town hall, and we gave them all away.”
The thousands of motorists diverted off I-70 weren’t having nearly as much fun.
“There was a lot of traffic, but no one could speed through town. It made it a little safer for the children,” Osborne said.
Black Gore Creek water was not damaged, Reid said. About 50 gallons of the 4,950 gallons made its way to the river, Reid said. The Environmental Protection Agency was on-site quickly to handle the spill.
Ready Trucking did most of the cleanup, Reid said.
And Vail’s drinking water remains safe, said Eagle River Water and Sanitation District spokeswoman Diane Johnson.
“The safety of Vail’s public drinking water system was never in question,” Johnson said.
The water system intakes were shut off as soon as they got word of the spill, Johnson said. They weren’t certain how much of the hazardous materials would spill into the river, if any, but they operated as through it had, Johnson said.
In coming days, the district will test water above, at and below the spill to monitor its quality, she said.
Walk away from the runaway ramp
The westbound trucker, Kerry Carpenter, did some spectacular driving to keep himself and other motorists in one piece, witnesses say.
Carpenter lost his brakes about three miles past the summit of Vail Pass, and called “mayday” on his CB radio, according to the town of Vail.
As he was hurtling down the mountain at about 85 mph, heavy traffic in the right lane made it impossible for him to hit the runaway truck ramp at mile marker 186.
More traffic almost caused him to miss the second runaway truck ramp near the bottom of Vail Pass, at mile marker 182, but he was able to yank his rig into the ramp’s deep gravel it at the last moment.
Witnesses saying he was going so fast his truck plowed all the way to the top of the ramp before stopping.
He hit the ramp at 12:50 p.m. and dropped 15 containers, each carrying 330 gallons. They all ruptured in the crash, and several rolled onto I-70.
Steve Carver’s Big Steve’s Towing spent 12 hours total pulling the truck out, Carver said.
Motorists were quickly detoured to Highway 91 and Highway 24. The westbound interstate reopened at about 8 p.m., just about the time trick-or-treating was winding down in Minturn.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.