New commander of the Colorado State Patrol’s Summit and Clear Creek troop expresses some of his concerns with proposed highway measures
By Bob Berwyn
“I think people want action,” Gibbs said, explaining that a measure requiring heavy trucks to stay in the slow lane on steep grades is straight-forward and aimed at three specific areas along the I-70 corridor: Floyd Hill, the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel approaches and Vail Pass.
Senate Bill 173 has been assigned to the transportation committee and hasn’t faced any votes yet. Gibbs said an early version of a fiscal analysis for the measure over-estimated the cost of implementing the law, so he asked for the study to be redone. The measure is co-sponsored by State Rep. Christine Scanlan.
The fiscal note suggested a price tag of $5.5 million, as the Colorado Department of Transportation included the cost of putting up new electronic variable message boards.
“That can’t be accurate,” Gibbs said, explaining that he asked state officials to take another look at the cost using normal highway signs. In any case, the bill has gained special status to allow for its consideration past the normal deadline.
Gibbs said the law is a common-sense measure to prevent backups that occur when one slow-moving trucker decides to try and pass an even slower truck. Given the high traffic density along I-70, even that temporary slowdown can quickly create a jam where accidents are more likely.
According to several trucking news web sites, the Colorado Motor Carriers Association opposes the bill. The industry’s position is that the Colorado State Patrol already has authority to ticket drivers who are using the passing lane inappropriately.
Speaking at a transportation forum in Frisco last week, State Patrol Captain John Lupton expressed his reservations about the measure. Lupton commands Troop 6B, which covers the areas targeted by the bill.
“The problem with the bill … it has loopholes in it … the definition of heavy traffic, what they’re carrying, safe conditions. Lawyers will find loopholes, and that makes it unenforceable. We cannot enforce it in the way it’s written,” Lupton said.
He suggested a better approach would be to put up more of the standard signs requiring a minimum speed of 65 MPH in the left-hand lane — and giving the agency adequate resources to enforce existing laws.
Gibbs said he hadn’t yet heard any state patrol criticism of the bill. Opposition from the trucking industry was to be expected, he added.
“It’s not an easy thing,” Gibbs said.
A second measure, Senate Bill 184, would require CDOT to study the feasibility of a reversible lane system for sections of I-70. The measure has 50 bipartisan co-sponsors, showing widespread support for the study.
Reversible lanes are already widely used, most often for high-occupancy vehicle traffic. They’re also used successfully on the Golden Gate Bridge in the San Francisco. While a few people claim reversible lanes can lead to more accidents, most traffic statistics don’t appear to support that conclusion.
Given other constraints along the I-70 corridor, some of the concerns about the plan are related to whether the reversible lanes would just end up moving the traffic jams to a different area.
As currently proposed, Senate Bill 184 would require CDOT to study the feasibility of reversible lanes in parts of the corridor. The idea, of course, is to increase the flow in the needed direction during peak traffic times. If the study shows it’s a feasible idea, and if safety concerns can be addressed, a public-private partnership might be created to help fund what could be a $20 to $40 million project — a price tag that is just a drop in the bucket compared to what any large-scale construction project in the corridor may cost.
Filed under: I-70, Summit County Colorado, transportation Tagged: | colorado Legislature, Colorado transportation news, I-70, State Rep. Christine Scanlan, State Sen. Dan Gibbs, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, transportation