Allyn Harvey: CDOT questions
Dear Tom Norton and all the other bigwigs at the Colorado Department of Transportation,I have to say I’m a little upset with the way you’ve been treating me and other customers recently. It feels downright hostile, even derogatory. It’s like you’re playing us all of us for fools.Here are two examples.First, the traffic lights along Highway 82 malfunction whenever there’s a big snow.Take the light at the Aspen municipal golf course. It doesn’t take much snow at all to make that light go haywire and start turning red every 60 or 90 seconds. During one December snowstorm, it literally backed traffic up to Shale Bluffs. That’s like two and a half miles.Another example is the light at the downvalley end of Snowmass Canyon. Ever since the center island was built where Snowmass Creek Road meets Highway 82, the light changes whether or not there’s a car waiting to enter the highway.When a reporter from The Aspen Times called to ask about the problems this winter, which most of us generally agree is one of the worst driving seasons in memory, one of your top managers in Glenwood Springs (I’ll leave his name out for now) got defensive, even rude about it.He told our reporter that it would be ridiculous to expect CDOT to clear the spotter cameras of snow during snowstorms. He even had the audacity to say that it’s just a normal winter, and drivers will have to take the slowdowns and nonfunctional traffic lights in stride.Now that’s the spirit of service.Those of us who use your product the highway system would like it if you’d fix the lights pronto.Your case for the use of magnesium chloride is another example of how you play us for fools.While I understand that this liquid form of salt and a host of other chemicals is fairly effective in keeping ice from forming on the road, I also recognize that it’s easy and cheap, even in the copious amounts your trucks spray on the road.But, please, don’t tell us it makes life safer. Sure, it might reduce the number of accidents today, but I wonder what its long-term effects are going to be on all who slog their way through clouds of mag chloride on a near-daily basis.Your own studies indicate that mag chloride eats through steel and concrete.And anyone who drives through Snowmass Canyon can see with their own eyes that first the conifer and now the deciduous trees between Highway 82 and the Roaring Fork River are dying off. Yes, the browning forest is only anecdotal evidence that mag chloride kills. But let me tell you guys, it’s pretty darn strong evidence.So my question is this: If mag chloride kills forests and burns through steel and concrete, what’s it doing to our lungs as it passes through our cars and trucks’ ventilation systems?The customer-friendly thing for CDOT to do would be putting mag chloride use on hold while you answer that question.The answer of course is “yes.” But for years your reply has been, “No, it’s not needed.”I guess what I’m asking is you put my health and my neighbors’ health ahead of your own convenience. Set aside your insistence that it’s safe and conduct a real study that answers the question.And please start treating us less like suckers and more like customers.Thanks,Allyn[Allyn Harvey is associate editor of The Aspen Times.]
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