Summit County: Should hazmat trucks use I-70?

Installation of fire suppression system in the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels could spur discussion on hazmat routing

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Hazmat routes are ubiquitous along Colorado’s major highways.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With $25 million in funding secured for a long-sought fire suppression system in the I-70 Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels, a debate over hazmat routing through Summit County could heat up again. In a first step, CDOT will start a process to update the 1980s-era rules for the tunnel, potentially opening the door to a petition process that could result in changes to the hazmat route.

Currently, gasoline tankers and nearly all other hazardous materials are routed via U.S. Highway 6 over windy Loveland Pass, where tankers frequently roll over and spill fuel. Most truckers would prefer to haul their flammable, toxic and explosive materials through the tunnel and down I-70 to save time and money, but local emergency responders aren’t sure if the change makes sense from a public safety standpoint.

“This is going to require some very careful evaluation,” said Summit County emergency services director Joel Cochran, acknowledging that there have already been some behind-the-scenes discussions among some stakeholders. Continue reading

Colorado: CDOT eyes fix for I-70 bridges in Silverthorne

New drainage system would prevent sand from reaching the Blue River

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Traction sand streaming off the I-70 bridge over the Blue River in Silverthorne has resulted in unsightly piles of sand and damaged vegetation along the banks of the Blue River.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Department of Transportation and Silverthorne hope to remediate a long-standing source of Blue River pollution this summer, when the highway department plans to redesign the drainage system on the I-70 bridges crossing the river.

The idea is to try and shunt at least some of the traction sand and the rest of the road gook in some kind of drainage pipe, starting in the middle of the bridges, and catch it in a basin on either end, said CDOT engineer Peter Kozinksi, who acknowledged that most of the sand has been running off the bridges for 40 years — and most of it ends up in the Blue River, a Gold Medal trout streamwhere  Silverthorne and partners have invested hundreds of thousand of dollars in restoration. Continue reading

Colorado: Budget juggling to speed highway projects

New accounting system doesn’t solve state’s long-term transportation woes

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Highway projects in Colorado will get a boost from a new budgeting regime.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado transportation officials say they will juggle their budgets to accelerate completion of transportation projects and create or sustain more than 10,500 jobs over five years.

Currently, CDOT does not advertise a project until all of the money is “in the bank,” which means the department is saving money for projects over multiple years before construction begins. In addition, some projects take several years to construct, so money often sits unspent when it could be used much sooner.

Under the new program, CDOT will fund multi-year projects based on year of expenditure, rather than saving for the full amount of a project before construction begins. This effort will match project expenditures with available revenues and allow CDOT to allocate an additional $300 million per year over five years to transportation projects over the next five years. Continue reading

Colorado: CDOT eyes automated avalanche blasting system for Berthoud Pass corridor

A powder avalanche blasts down a hillside near Berthoud Pass, Colorado. Photo courtesy CDOT.

Pilot project to be considered for the Stanley slide path

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A year or so after first talking up the idea of installing an automated avalanche blasting system on Berthoud Pass, the Colorado Department of Transportation is getting ready to hold a public info session to discuss the idea with the public.

At an elevation of 11,307 feet, Berthoud Pass averages about 500 inches of snow per year, and the area has 55 identified slide paths, many of them directly threatening U.S. Highway 40. The most recognized avalanche path, and proposed site of CDOT’s pilot project, is the Stanley Slide area located on US 40 at Mile Post 249.8. Continue reading

Colorado: I-70 repairs will require single-lane closures

Work to take place Sunday-Thursday nights through October

Colorado travelers can expect some lane closures along I-70 the next few weeks as CDOT repairs the road surface.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Road and bridge work along I-70 will require overnight lanes closures between Vail Pass and Chief Hosa the next few weeks, with scheduled for completion in November. Crews will be crack sealing, as well as paving a two-mile segment through Idaho Springs.

Drivers can expect single lane closures on eastbound or westbound I-70, Sunday through Thursday nights, as follows:

  • Eastbound between Vail Pass and Silverthorne – 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Eastbound through Idaho Springs – 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Westbound through Idaho Springs – 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The speed limit is reduced to 45 mph through the work zone. Lane closures are a maximum of two miles long and work can alternate between eastbound and westbound I-70, depending on how the project is progressing. Traffic slowing is possible due to the single lane configurations.

“Crack sealing is a preemptive strike against road deterioration because it extends the lifespan of the highway – both the surface and sub-surface,” said CDOT resident engineer Russel Cox.  “It prevents pot holes from developing and that’s a safety enhancement as well. We see it as a lower cost treatment in the short-term that saves money in the long-term.”

A-1 Chipseal Co. of Denver, CO. is the contractor for the $1.6 million project.

Additional information is available by calling the project hotline at 970-344-4664.

Updated information regarding traffic impacts on this or other CDOT projects is available at www.cotrip.org or by calling 511.  To receive project updates via e-mail, 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 items you can subscribe to, including I-70 West, Denver to Glenwood Springs.

Colorado: Input sought on I-70 Twin Tunnels plan

Public meeting set for July 25 in Idaho Springs

Straightening some of the tight turns along I-70 east of the Twin Tunnels should improve traffic flow and safety.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As the Colorado Department of Transportation forges ahead with a plan to add a new eastbound bore to the Twin Tunnels along I-70, the agency wants some public comment.

In addition to commenting online, residents and I-70 travelers are invited to a July 25 public meeting in Idaho Springs to get an informational update from CDOT experts and to offer comments in person. The meeting is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Clear Creek County School District Office, 320 State Highway 103.

The Twin Tunnel improvements are the first step in a far-reaching plan to ease congestion and improve safety along the I-70 corridor. With limited funds, CDOT is looking to make changes where they’ll do the most good. The improvements could be done in time for the 2013-2014 ski season. Continue reading

Draft EA for I-70 Twin Tunnels fix released

Comments taken through Aug. 4

New tunnel bore, highway straigtening proposed for I-70.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal and state highway officials have moved one step closer to making significant improvements to the I-70 corridor with release of a draft environmental study that discusses environmental impacts from the proposed of a third bore at the twin tunnels.

The highway segment is a known choke point along the busy corridor that causes major delays. It’s also one of the most crash-prone sections between Denver and the high country.

The work, which could begin next summer, would address the narrow tunnels and sharp curves on a three-mile stretch of interstate that sees a high number of crashes compared to similar stretches of highway elsewhere in the state.

Between 2006 and 2010, there were 625 crashes on that highway segment, most of them in the eastbound direction near the Hidden Valley curve, resulting in significant delays on the highway, especially Sunday afternoons, when traffic can slow from 65 mph to 35 mph and create backupsextending past Georgetown and sometimes reaching as far the Eisenhower- Johnson Memorial Tunnels, nearly 30 miles away.

Continue reading

Colorado lawmakers say fire suppression system in I-70′s Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel is ‘dangerously inadequate’

Letter to President Obama calls for funding to upgrade tunnel safety

East entrance of the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel along I-70 in Colorado.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s congressional delegation may not agree on much, especially as the upcoming election intensifies the partisan divide, but all of them, from Sen, Mark Udall to Rep. Doug Lamborn, are asking President Obama to help fund critical safety upgrades to the Eisenhower Tunnel.

All nine members of the state’s elected lawmakers in Washington signed a Feb. 6 letter asking the Obama administration to dedicate $20 million in the 2013 budget to pay for a fire suppression system.

The lawmakers said a recent shows the existing system “dangerously inadequate,” and called for swift installation of a water mist fire suppression system to protect the key regional traffic artery and the safety of travelers in the tunnels. Continue reading

Colorado: I-70 pace-car program to get first winter test

CDOT and law enforcement agencies team up to tackle I-70 congestion

Can "rolling traffic harmonization" ease congestion on I-70?

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —It’s not quite the Indy 500, but skiers and other travelers headed east on I-70 Sunday afternoons will get that pace-car feeling, as CDOT, the Colorado State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies along the I-70 corridor implement what they call “rolling speed harmonization.”

Beginning this Sunday (Dec. 18) sometime between 11 a.m. and noon, a single Silverthorne police car car will switch on its emergency lights and merge ahead of traffic, starting just east of the Silverthorne Interchange. The police vehicle  will pace eastbound vehicles, at speeds between 45 and 55 mph, to the entrance of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel. Continue reading

Colorado: Final I-70 study released

Transit, traffic management and highway improvements eyed for mountain interstate; public comment period open through April 11

CDOT, feds release final I-70 study for public comment through April 11.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — No big changes in the final version of the massive environmental study for the I-70 corridor, released this week and open for public comment through April 11.

Click here to visit the CDOT I-70 website with all the related documents and comment information.

The preferred alternative in the final study includes three main components, including non-infrastructure projects related to traffic and traffic-demand management, an advanced guideway system (train or monorail) and highway improvements.

The non-infrastructure projects include increased enforcement, programs for improving truck movements, driver education and promoting high-occupancy travel and public transit.

The advanced guideway system is supported by a CDOT commitment to fund studies to determine the viability of an advanced guideway system, even though there’s already plenty of documented evidence showing that such a system is feasible.

Highway improvements include six-laning the interstate between Floyd Hill and the Twin Tunnels, improvements to Empire Junction, an eastbound auxiliary lane from the Eisenhower Tunnel to Herman Gulch, and a westbound auxiliary lane from Bakerville up to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Continue reading

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