You may get more room to pass truckers | VailDaily.com
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You may get more room to pass truckers

Alison Miller
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL ” Coming over the pass at a steady speed and suddenly finding yourself stuck behind a slow going truck with no room to pass it, or having to hit the breaks thanks to an accident ahead are some of the most frustrating things motorists have to deal with on Interstate 70.

“I was stuck on the pass for a couple of hours one year,” said Paul Miklas, who has been making the trip from the Denver Airport to Vail every year for 32 years. “There was black ice and an accident so we got diverted off the highway and it took a very long time.”

Miklas’ experience is just one example of what the Colorado Department of Transportation is working to avoid by proposing a third, slow-moving traffic lane for the west side of the pass, project manager Peter Kozinski said.

Adding a third lane will help prevent motorists from having to change lanes to pass slower vehicles, and will help get traffic moving quicker after an accident occurs, Kozinski said.

There were 26 accidents that resulted in injuries on Vail Pass in 2006, according to Colorado State Patrol.

When Warren Meyers from Los Angeles made a trip over the pass on Tuesday, there were a number of truckers on the road that motorists were “dealing with,” he said

“You sort of have to learn how to get around them,” Meyers said. “When we came in it was mid-week and sunny so we didn’t have any problems, but I can see how much of a problem it could be during ski season.”

If a third lane is built, trucks will be restricted to the right lane, Kozinski said.

Members of the public will have their chance to weigh in on the idea of widening the pass on Tuesday when the department of transportation holds an open house meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Donovan Pavilion in Vail, Kozinski said.

A final recommendation on the project is not expected to be made until the end of 2008, he said.

“The widening of the roadway will create construction issues for the area, so we really want to know what kind of an impact that will have and how best to deal with it,” Kozinski said.

Though a decision will be made next year, funding for the construction could push the project’s completion out a few years after that, Kozinski said.

The first and most immediate goal for the department of transportation is to develop a way to capture and contain the sand that comes off the road after it is applied during winter storms, Kozinski said.

“We apply sand to roadways for safe driving, but the majority is not collected so it migrates into Black Gore Creek which creates problems for the wildlife and the water,” Kozinski said. “We will try to capture and control that sediment, but we need to know how the pass will ultimately be built out so we can plan effectively and not waste money.”

The need for a third lane is not in question, Meyers said, but whether the money could be used for better alternatives ” like mass transit ” is.

“No doubt about it, people will use and probably very much enjoy having another lane, but it seems like a waste of money when what the area could really use is mass transportation ” like a train,” Meyers said.

The plan to widen the pass is a result on an ongoing department of transportation study of Interstate 70 from Denver to Glenwood Springs, and is just one part of the overall solution, Kozinski said.

The additional lane is part of the agency’s 25-year plan, and the agency has not ruled out rail transit as part of their 50-year plan, he said.

“This project does not preclude a rail possibly coming through the valley, or even dedicated bus lanes,” Kozinski said. “We might still need to widen the highway though. Trucks need to climb and come down that hill even if rail is there.”

Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or armiller@vaildaily.com.


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