I-70 speed limits too high?
Aspen, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY – Debbie Wilson agrees with a new health study that recommends lowering the speed limit along several stretches of Interstate 70.
“This is such a heavily populated area with so much traffic,” said Wilson, an Edwards resident. “I think it needs to move slower.”
A group of county officials recently requested that the Colorado Department of Transportation lower the speed limit on the 75-mph stretch of Interstate 70 between Edwards and Eagle, east of Glenwood Springs.
Most crashes occur between Vail and Avon, where the speed limit is 60 and 65 mph, according to an Eagle County health study to be published soon. However, between Edwards and Dotsero, where the speed limit is 75 mph, twice as many deaths occurred between 2000 and 2004, the study says.
“I didn’t know the stats on the death rate, so that was kind of a shock to me,” said Mark Raymond, an Eagle-Vail resident who drives to Eagle twice each week.
Eagle County’s death rate for motor-vehicle crashes is 20 percent higher than Colorado’s, and Interstate 70 claims the most deaths and injuries in Eagle County, according to the Eagle County Public Safety Council, the group of county officials who want to lower the speed limit.
Raymond enjoys driving 75, but the rising cost of fuel and deaths and injuries are good reasons to lower it, he said.
Others think the speed limit should remain 75, they said.
Police should better enforce the limit before lowering it, said Gary Thornton, a Singletree resident. Not enough police patrol Interstate 70, he said.
“Tinkering with the speed limit won’t be as effective as more random enforcement,” Thornton said.
Mountain passes, rain and snow, wildlife crossings, a high speed limit and other factors are responsible for the high number of crashes on Interstate 70 in Eagle County, the study says. However, fatal crashes occurred most often during summer months from 2000 to 2004, the study says.
Crashes are the third-leading cause of death for residents, behind cardiovascular disease and cancer. They are the leading cause of death for people 15 to 25 years old, the study says.
Crash injuries and deaths also cost taxpayers, the study says. Crashes exhaust emergency services’ resources, and hospitals treat crash patients regardless of insurance status, the study says.
The study also recommends lowering the speed limit.
Local residents would continue driving 75 even if the limit were lowered, some drivers said.
Nate Winship drives 80 mph through the 75-mph zone, he said.
“People are used to going that fast,” said Winship, an Avon resident.
Thornton pointed at the price of gas at the Eagle-Vail Shop n’ Hop as he filled his car.
“This alone should bring people’s speed down, but they haven’t figured that out yet,” he said.
Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi wants to lower the speed limit from 55 to 45 between Edwards and Eagle on U.S. Highway 6, he said.
Menconi was not aware of emergency service officials’ desire to lower the limit on Interstate 70, but he would support them if they had a “good reason” for it, he said.
“We just need to make sure we are coordinating with (the Colorado Department of Transportation) and our county engineers to make sure we are doing this properly,” he said.
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