Marolt: Destruction from construction traffic | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: Destruction from construction traffic

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

Roger Marolt

I think the driving laws in Colorado must have been amended. Are construction vehicles now exempt from the prohibition against running red lights? It sure seems like it. If it's not the law that now allows them to blast through red lights at their casual discretion, then it certainly has become the rule.

The best place to observe the unimpeded migration of Dodge RAM trucks pulling flatbed trailers loaded with cinder blocks ignoring all colors of traffic lights except green is at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82. It seems every time I am there anymore, waiting my turn to head westward on a journey as long as it takes to feel normal again, just as soon as the green light flashes its permission to get going, I turn my head to my left to witness a five-ton conglomeration of equipment and building supplies scorching the ground in the no-man's land of the intersection at speeds approaching that of the jets directly above coming in low for landing at Sardy Field.

The experience frightens me every single time I watch it nearly as much as it amazes me, and not because of the irrationality of imagining a hypothetical collision of a dump truck and a RFTA bus there. How many construction vehicles and buses pass through that spot everyday? I believe it is probably enough to say that an accident of major significance at that location is a true "when" not "if" proposition.

It's not like there haven't been close calls. A good friend of mine had stopped for a red light in the downvalley lanes at the light at the Airport Business Center. He adjusted his radio and looked up just in time to see a truck pulling a trailer with a tractor on it come hurtling directly across the median after running a red light and swerving to avoid a car legally crossing from the entrance to the airport. The construction vehicle slammed into my friend's Jeep and both vehicles ended up smashing through the bus stop on the right shoulder of Highway 82 and finally came to rest over the bank on the frontage road in the Business Center. Miraculously, nobody was hurt, even though both vehicles, the trailer and the tractor on it were totaled.

Last week a similarly rigged construction combo shot through the intersection in El Jebel by City Market. It, too, ended up having to swerve to avoid traffic that had begun to cross the intersection legally on their green light. The result was a rollover and lots of steel carnage and a very inconvenient road closure of our valley's main thoroughfare. Thankfully, we got lucky again and there was no loss of life.

I know what the drivers of these vehicles say; "it's almost impossible to bring that much weight to a stop." Unfortunately, they don't seem to learn this except from actual experience at the scene of a major accident.

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I get the physics. Four-hundred horses under the hood of a 4WD body in motion tends to stay in motion especially after accelerating through a yellow light after having already been traveling at the law-enforcement-looking-the-other-way unwritten-rule permitting five miles-per-hour over the legal speed limit. Common sense is the unknown variable.

I, for one, am all for red-light cameras around here. I don't care about the arguments that it is not proven to be an effective deterrent against running red lights. I care even less about the invasion of privacy issues. A Big Brother can be a good friend at times. At the very least, I think the $75 fine that comes with being caught on the not-so-candid traffic cameras might warrant a good butt chewing from the ignorant driver's supervisor, even if that cost will likely just be added to the construction company's billings.

Even while I am advocating for law enforcement to become more active in preventing what I think will be an eventual local tragedy, if nothing is done, I know there is a better and more surefire solution: Be extremely careful at our valley's intersections. Stay alert and keep your head on a swivel. We can't beat them, so we shouldn't join them in an intersection meeting of the bumpers. Of all the threats ramped-up construction poses to our quality of life, the extinguishing of life in a traffic accident is undoubtedly the worst.

Roger Marolt thinks it's as foolish to jack-rabbit start from a green light as it is to blast through a yellow. roger@maroltllp.com

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