I-70 project to aid truckers begins | AspenTimes.com

I-70 project to aid truckers begins

Nicole Formosa
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Construction began this week on a $2.475 million project to improve safety for truck drivers and reduce lane closures on Interstate 70 when the snow starts falling.

Crews are constructing 137 new parking spaces for semi-truck drivers in Clear Creek and Summit counties, as well as putting up new signs to slow down other drivers near chain-up stations and signs to warn that the chain law is in effect.

The work is part of a package promised by the Colorado Department of Transportation in light of a beefed-up chain law that raises the fines for drivers who don’t abide by chain restrictions from $100 to a maximum of $1,000.

When the bill was in the Legislature last session, truck drivers objected, saying there weren’t enough safe, well-lit chain-up stations in the mountain corridor, which made it difficult to comply with the chain law.

Last year, I-70 ” the main east-west thoroughfare through the Colorado mountains ” was closed a total of 119 hours due to truck spinouts, according to CDOT.

CDOT’s first priority is building the additional spaces for chaining up, 132 of which will be in Clear Creek County. Another five are planned in the truck pull-off just past the Silverthorne exit heading eastbound, said CDOT engineer Saeed Sobhi.

The Clear Creek spaces will be added to existing pullouts, as well as in newly constructed chain stations, in both the eastbound and westbound directions. One of the most noticeable differences will be in the westbound Georgetown exit on the approach to the Eisenhower Tunnel, which will become a dual exit, allowing two lines of truck can park and put on chains at the same time, Sobhi said.

Spaces will also be added closer to Denver, near the Denver West exit and the C470/I-70 interchange.

Other work will include signs that slow speed to 50 or 55 mph in areas where chain-up stations are located.

That will all be done by Nov. 1, said CDOT Region 1 director Jeff Kullman.

“We know (winter) could start a little earlier than that. What we’ve tried to do is have the contractors start with locations higher up the hill first work their way down to lower elevations as much as they can,” Kullman said.

CDOT is also working with the Colorado Motor Carriers Association to get the word out to truckers nationwide about the new rules in Colorado.

“I think drivers are aware that there’s been a change, but we need to educate them on what that change is and what’s involved in it,” said Colorado Motor Carriers Association president Greg Fulton.

A big piece of that is a new Department of Public Safety regulatory requirement that says truck drivers must carry chains in their vehicles from Sept. 1 to May 1 in Colorado.

Fulton is publishing articles in various industry publications to spread the word, but will also rely on brochures handed to drivers at major ports of entry into the state.

He also thinks the marketing effort needs to go beyond education solely for truck drivers. For example, a campaign similar to CDOT’s “Slow for the Cone Zone,” which warns drivers to slow down in construction areas, could be used to caution automobile drivers to be careful around chain-up areas, Fulton said.

There is typically no physical barrier between the interstate lanes of traffic and chain-up stations. Often, when the weather is at its worst, truck drivers will pull off to the side of the interstate to put on chains.

For CDOT’s part, it plans to continue to making improvements to the I-70 corridor.

Kullman said he is working to secure another $4 million for a second project next year to widen additional chain-up stations in Vail and other areas that won’t be covered in the first phase.