Vail Daily letter: Long delay for I-70 rollover
Vail, CO, Colorado
For the tens of thousands of us that were trapped by the overturned oil tanker on I-70 in Edwards, it would be nice to know from Colorado Department of Transportation and the State Patrol answers to the following questions:
1) Given that the rig had rolled into the median and off the pavement, why not just leave it there until the extraordinary Sunday traffic had become minimal?
2) According to an eyewitness, the driver stated that he was carrying diesel fuel, a liquid with “lower flammability and explosivity than gasoline” (Wikipedia). Is it reasonable to assume that little of the fuel spilled on the pavement and that there was minimal threat?
3) One explanation for the delay was the threat of lightning, but wasn’t that threat limited to a short period during the 12-hour delay and diversion of auto traffic?
4) Semi-trailers were allowed to go east through the Wolcott control point because they “were not able to easily traverse Highway 6,” according to a traffic controller at mile marker 157. If semis (ironically the very same type of vehicle that caused the horrendous delay) were allowed to pass through the danger zone, why were automobiles not allowed the same privilege? If the excuse was that the danger was high, was a trucker’s life just less important?
5) Assuming that there could have been a real risk due to facts not yet revealed, why was traffic along Highway 6 treated so shabbily? Why weren’t there traffic personnel at each of the many stoplights to avoid the unnecessary stops and starts and subsequent delays? During the one-hour trip to bypass on Highway 6, there were no signs of highway patrol or, what would have seemed obvious under the circumstances, any sheriff or local policemen. Do they talk with each other?
6) Given the volume of traffic going east and the fact that I-70 westbound was clear, why wasn’t westbound traffic on Highway 6 diverted to I-70 and both lanes of Highway 6 open to eastbound traffic?
7) Given the daily restrictions to one lane that seem to be easily instituted for I-70 construction, why weren’t westbound lanes converted to 2-way traffic?
We were lucky, having left the house at 4:30 to get to Vail by 7. How awful it must have been for families with young children, those with necessary appointments to keep, and those badly in need of gasoline or physical relief to have sat and sat and sat … all because of a tire blow-out on an ill-maintained tanker.
Thank you for any clarifications to my obviously prejudicial questions.
Editor’s note: Eagle River Fire Chief Charlie Moore explained in a story published in the Daily on Tuesday that the tanker was carrying 8,000 gallons of highly flammable petroleum crude oil concentrate and was potentially explosive. “This operation presented a high degree of risk,” Moore said.