It takes a lot to keep Colorado’s highways open during big winter storms
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — With a series of winter-like storms forecast to move across Colorado during the next few days, the Colorado Department of Transportation says its ready to tackle the snow.
“We’re ready for this one and ready to battle a lot more snow and ice over the next few months,” said CDOT Deputy Maintenance Superintendent Dave Miller, who oversees the western portion of the Interstate 70 corridor between Idaho Springs and Vail Pass. “All of our available resources will be up and running to keep the highways open and safe for travel this winter season.”
The Paul Maintenance Area, which includes most of Summit and Clear Creek counties, and a small area of Grand County, has 74 maintenance workers and 46 trucks. A minimum of 20 trucks operate around the clock during snowstorms. Eight trucks, including two tankers, are used to apply de-icers and other plow trucks carry sand, salt and ice-slicer to provide traction.
The crews operating out of Vail Passcover 698 lane-miles (the combined lengths of each lane on every highway in the region), which includes 50 miles of Interstate 70, three mountain passes (Loveland, east side of Vail and Berthoud) and the Eisenhower Tunnel approaches.
During the winter of 2010-2011, maintenance crews plowed 604,858 total miles. Crews also sprayed 1,171,025 gallons of de-icer, spread 56,415 tons of sand/salt and ice slicer and spent 9,851 hours in other snow removal-type activities.
East of the tunnel, the Mary Maintenance Area oversees sections of Jefferson, Park, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties, with 53 maintenance workers and 51 trucks operating during snowstorms, eight which are used to apply de-icers. Other plow trucks carry sand/salt and Ice Slicer to provide traction.
“Please remember that in order for our plow drivers to do their job effectively, we need the traveling public’s help, giving our plows enough room to clear the road so that it’s safe for travel,” said Al Martinez, deputy maintenance superintendent for the Mary Area. “It’s also critical that travelers know what conditions to expect before they head out. Preparing their vehicles for travel during adverse weather also is a good idea, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of others on the road as well.”
Mary Maintenance Area crews oversee 874 lane-miles, which includes 20 miles of I-70 (between Mount Vernon Canyon and Idaho Springs), three passes (Kenosha, Hoosier and Red Hill), Evergreen Parkway and Bear Creek Canyon (State Highway 74), Highway 119 between U.S. 6 and Highway 72, State Highway 9 between Fairplay and Hoosier Pass and U.S. 285 between Morrison and Fairplay.
During the winter of 2010/2011, Mary maintenance crews plowed 256,818 total miles. Crews also sprayed 924,791 gallons of deicer, spread 14,425 tons of sand/salt and ice slicer and spent 1,700 hours in other snow removal-type activities.
Paul and Mary area maintenance crews operate in two shifts during the winter season: 4 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 12 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. However, when inclement weather sets in, crews switch to 24-hour coverage.
Current road and weather conditions are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via reports and traffic cameras on the http://www.cotrip.org web site or by calling 511. Information also is available via text alerts and/or e-mails. Please visit www.coloradodot.info and click on the cell-phone icon in the upper right-hand corner. The link takes you to a list of subscription items.
Winter weather driving tips:
- Log on to CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at:
for road conditions winter driving tips and other information.
- Always keep the top half of your gas tank full. It can give you better traction and gives you a bigger margin of error if you get stuck and have to keep the engine running periodically to keep warm.
- If you are stuck in a serious storm do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.
- Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel, some nutrition bars or other food for sustenance. Winterize your vehicle’s safety kit by including extra blankets, sand to help gain traction in the event you become stuck on ice or snow, jumper cables, an ice scraper and lock de-icer.
- Remember that 4-wheel drive does not mean 4-wheel stop. A 4-wheel drive vehicle will not stop any better in icy conditions, especially if you have inadequate snow tires.
- Be sure of your route. Don’t go exploring in the back-country without some local knowledge, especially during a storm or when one is bearing down anywhere near your location.
- Be sure you have good tires. The Colorado State Patrol recommends at least 1/8 of an inch tread depth. All season radials on a front-wheel-drive passenger vehicle are adequate for most situations; install them on all four tires. Four snow tires on most rear-wheel drive vehicles are usually adequate. Chain restrictions in Colorado are most often put into effect for commercial vehicles (semi-trailer trucks) and do not usually affect passenger vehicles.
- In poor visibility or even whiteout conditions, don’t drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor or no visibility can lead to large chain reaction accidents. Remember you can’t see around mountain curves and corners either.
- In addition to these winter driving tips, CDOT reminds all motorists to respect winter weather, conduct a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, leave extra space between your automobile and others on the road, and never drink and drive. Of course, always buckle up!