Vail Pass construction plans change
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Road construction on eastbound Vail Pass caused traffic delays so bad Monday that crews stopped working ahead of schedule in order to provide some relief.
Contractors then announced changes to the overall construction plans Tuesday.
American Civil Constructors, the contractor, is reducing the paving operations in the eastbound lanes to just one work zone in light of Monday’s delays. The two, two-mile work zones on Monday created more significant congestion than project leaders had anticipated.
Dean Laudeman, a part-time Beaver Creek resident, was heading back to Denver Monday just after noon and experienced the delays. He said it took more than an hour to get from East Vail to the top of Vail Pass.
“Once you’re stuck, you’re stuck,” Laudeman said.
Laudeman said he saw about 50 cars pulled off to the side of the road that were overheating because of the traffic.
When he called 511 to get information about the traffic, nobody answered, he said.
He said he plans to take Tennessee Pass on his next trip because of the construction schedule, which is supposed to last through late September.
Nancy Shanks, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said Tuesday that traffic counts along eastbound Interstate 70 over Vail Pass were nearly twice as high Monday as the same day last summer. There were about 970 vehicles per hour heading east on Vail Pass last year, compared with about 1,600 vehicles per hour Monday.
Shanks said the department isn’t sure what has caused the increase. Gas prices are about one dollar higher per gallon this year compared to the same time last year.
“It was a very high volume day,” Shanks said. “Maybe this is people taking some in-state trips. It’s really hard to say.”
The department doesn’t have an exact count on the number of tractor trailers crossing the pass, but she said there were a lot on Monday.
“Crews are noticing a lot of trucks, and that, of course, exacerbates delays,” Shanks said. “When you stop a truck on that uphill section, it’s hard to get them started again.”
Laudeman counted a big truck for about every 10 to 15 cars.
The new construction plans are decreasing the milling and paving operations into one, three-mile work zone. The work is just one part of the $9.5 million Vail Pass safety improvement project, however, meaning several shorter single-lane closures on both sides of the highway will still occur.
The project includes resurfacing work, bridge joint repairs, barrier and guard rail replacement, drainage improvements, and the installation of electronic message boards and sensors.
The milling and paving work has caused the greatest impact on traffic, according to a CDOT statement released Tuesday, because crews have to reduce traffic to a single lane on an uphill stretch of the highway.
CDOT says the work cannot be done overnight because of various construction issues. CDOT also pointed out that the area is a lynx habitat and while it could have applied for a variance to do the overnight work, there were too many other concerns with nighttime construction.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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