Silverthorne puts brakes on runaway rigs |

Silverthorne puts brakes on runaway rigs

Nicole Formosa
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. ” This past summer, a trucker traveling westbound from the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70 lost his brakes and used the Silverthorne exit as an emergency truck ramp.

The semi-truck approached the intersection and made a sharp, right turn, smashing into a vehicle waiting at the light, according to Silverthorne Police Chief Joe Russell.

No one was hurt in the accident, but it snarled traffic for hours.

The summer before, the same thing happened, only that time the trailer tipped over onto another vehicle at the intersection, trapping the occupants inside until the fire department could prop up the truck and pry the door open.

Incidents like these are a huge concern for Russell.

“It’s a safety issue for the community,” Russell said.

He’s been working with the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association for the past several months on a way to better inform truck drivers that the Silverthorne exit should not be used as an emergency bail-out from the interstate.

There are two emergency off-ramps located on the steep grade between the tunnel and the Silverthorne exit.

“On occasion a trucker will take the (lower) emergency off-ramp, which usually results in a safe end to the lost brake situation. When the emergency truck ramp is not used it usually results in a far more serious situation and delays travel for hours which has a direct economic impact upon the state,” Russell wrote in a July e-mail to CDOT officials regarding the matter.

CDOT is moving forward with a plan to erect three yellow and black signs between the lower emergency off-ramp and the Silverthorne interchange.

The first sign will warn drivers of steep grades and tell them to use a low gear for the next mile. The next sign will say: “Lost Brakes? Do Not Exit. Stay on I-70” and the third, placed just before the exit, will tell drivers with lost brakes to merge left as there is an upgrade for the next mile to help slow them down.

Many truckers don’t realize that the interstate actually has an ascending grade between Silverthorne and Frisco.

In the most recent accident, the driver told police officers that he wasn’t familiar with the area and took the first exit he could find upon losing his brakes, Russell said.

CDOT engineer Saeed Sobhi didn’t have an exact timeframe for when the signs would be put up, but said they are on order and will be installed as soon as possible.

Sobhi said the signs are an attempt to solve an immediate safety concern, and that CDOT plans to commission a comprehensive study this winter to look at all the safety signs for truck drivers from the tunnel to Silverthorne.