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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

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Colorado ramps up for another big I-70 project

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CDOT planning major highway improvements in 2014.

Peak-period shoulder toll lane to ease eastbound congestion; CDOT hopes to finish the work by 2015

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — As soon as they finish with the current I-70 construction around the Twin Tunnel segment, Colorado Department of Transportation engineers will set their sights on another project aimed at easing eastbound traffic congestion on the busy Colorado east-west interstate.

A nine-mile section of peak-period shoulder lanes from Empire Junction to the Twin Tunnels could loosen up Sunday afternoon traffic jams by providing three lanes from the junction all the way back to Denver, said CDOT mountain corridor manager Jim Bemelen.

The estimated cost for improving the shoulders is about $30 million, and funding for the project has been approved as part of a statewide $560 million slate of upgrades under the Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program, announced by Gov. John Hickenlooper and CDOT director Don Hunt this week. Continue reading

Colorado: $10 million grant to help fund I-70 tunnel fire suppression system

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The east portal of the Eisenhower and Johnson Memorial tunnels near Loveland Ski Area.

Automated sprinklers could help avert a serious catastrophe

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A $10 million dollar grant will help the Colorado Department of Transportation install a long-sought fire suppression system in the Eisenhower and Johnson Memorial Tunnels along I-70.

Colorado’s congressional delegation was unified last year in seeking support for the grant. All nine members of the state’s elected delegation 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. Continue reading

GOP wants to axe bike path funding in 2014 budget

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Under budget measures proposed by the GOP, federal funding for bike and pedestrian paths would

Update: The transportation spending bill was pulled July 31 by the GOP house leadership, possibly until September, when it could be voted on during renewed budget wrangling. Transportation watchdog groups are taking some credit, saying the GOP pulled the measure because they couldn’t get enough support. Many members of Congress heard from constituents that they want a robust, multimodal transportation future.

FRISCO — After taking aim at public lands and environmental agency budgets last week, GOP lawmakers are now swinging their budget-cutting axe at government investments in transportation. Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, wants to strip all funding for transportation alternatives from the 2014 budget.

The League of American Bicyclists is watch-dogging the Congressional antics, and is asking cyclists to contact lawmakers to express their views.

The latest attack follows on the heels of last year’s drastic cuts that combined Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails into one line item and slashed the funding by 30 percent.

The cycling group is asking its members to launch a social media blitz to let lawmakers know how they feel about any efforts to cut an already tiny budget. Follow the League of American Bicyclists on Twitter to get dialed in.

Here’s part of the post from the group’s blog:

“We are asking you to be prepared on Tuesday evening to tweet your member of Congress asking them to vote NO on any amendment that will harm funding for biking and walking.  We will send you the amendment number, the name of the sponsor and the content of the amendment, as soon as we hear an amendment has been introduced.  Please retweet that message using your Representative’s handle – and send it through your networks.

“We want to make sure Congress knows we’re watching, and that any late night attempt to cut Transportation Alternatives or otherwise harm biking and walking, will be protested by their constituents. Both the House and Senate go on a month-long recess on Friday so they need to finish this week.

Colorado: State wildlife experts support grassroots push to improve wildlife safety along Highway 9

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Wildlife underpasses could help improve safety along Colorado Highway 9 between Green Mountain Reservoir and Kremmling.

Improvements would reduce costly and deadly vehicle-wildlife collisions

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado wildlife officials say they’re supporting a grassroots drive to raise money for wildlife overpasses and underpasses along Highway 9, near Kremmling. The goal is to reduce the number of vehicle-wildlife collisions on a 10.6-mile stretch of the highway between Green Mountain Reservoir and the Colorado River near Kremmling.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, wildlife collisions in this area have led to nearly 600 vehicular accidents in the last 20 years, including 16 human fatalities and almost 200 injuries. About 35 percent of the collisions were wildlife related. In addition, there have been nearly 450 animals killed — mostly mule deer — in the last eight years. Continue reading

Study shows prenatal impacts of living close to major roads

Kids more susceptible to develop respiratory infections

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There’s more evidence that living next to busy roads has health risks.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In yet another strong sign that living close to major roads is significant health risk, researchers in Massachusetts found that prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution increases the risk of subsequent respiratory infection in children.

“The connection between in utero and early life cigarette smoke exposure and adverse infant respiratory outcomes is well-established, but the relation of prenatal ambient air pollution to risk of infant respiratory infection is less well-studied,” said lead author Mary Rice, MD, a pulmonary and critical care fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Our study extends previous findings by showing that proximity to a major roadway during the prenatal period is associated with increased risk of subsequent respiratory infection in children.” Continue reading

Colorado: More money for transit?

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Money previously earmarked for road and bridge construction can now be used to enhance alternative transit.

New law gives communities more leeway with spending Highway User Tax monies on transit projects

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Alternative transit in Colorado could get a funding boost this year, after Gov. John Hickenlooper last week signed Senate Bill 13-048 into law.

The measures gives communities new flexibility to spend their share of the $250 million pot of money collected from gas taxes and license plate fees — known as the Highway Users Tax Fund — on bike and pedestrian paths, transit and other projects.  Previously, the money was restricted by law to highway and bridge projects.

“Aurora supported the bill because we wanted the flexibility to address all of our local transportation needs, not just road and street needs,” said Steve Hogan, Aurora Mayor. “Our city wishes to address parking related to Light Rail, bike path and bike lane improvements, and transit needs around the Fitzsimons/Anschutz Campus. These amenities make our city more desirable.” Continue reading

Travel: U.S. Senate acts to avert more airport delays

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The U.S. Senate wants to keep air traffic moving.

Budget shuffle could enable FAA to avoid furloughs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the busy summer travel season already winding up, the U.S. Senate acted to try and prevent more delays at U.S. Airports. The bipartisan deal to give the FAA more budget flexibility was led by Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The Reducing Flight Delays Act gives the U.S. Secretary of Transportation the flexibility to transfer discretionary funds into the FAA’s operations budget to prevent essential employees, such as air traffic controllers, from being furloughed.  Continue reading

Health: New European study solidifies link between highway pollution and chronic childhood asthma

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Roadside air pollution is a significant factor in chronic childhood asthma.

Toxic emissions from traffic are a significant public health concern, often ignored by transportation and urban planners

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Pollution from busy roads may cause just as many cases of chronic childhood asthma as passive smoking, according to new findings published this week in the European Respiratory Journal.

The research conducted in 10 European cities concludes that 14 percent of childhood asthma cased are linked with traffic related pollution, while the World Health Organization estimates that between 4 percent and 18 percent of asthma cases in children are linked to passive smoking. Continue reading

Summit Stage director resigns

The Summit Stage free transit system serves thousands of riders each day/

The Summit Stage free transit system serves thousands of riders each day/

John Jones moving on to head transit system in Virginia

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Summit Stage director John Jones said today he’s resigning from his job effective Feb. 8. Jones will become the new director of the transit system in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“When you sit up thinking about doing something new after the alarm goes off, you know it’s time for a change,” Jones said, adding that he’s looking forward to the new challenges ahead.

Jones has led the Summit Stage the past eight years through some serious ups and downs, including the peak of the resort and real estate boom years and the subsequent deep slump that cut into county tax revenues, including the free transit system’s budget, with the drop in revenues coming at a time of rising costs.

Those pressures on the Summit Stage budget resulted in some schedule juggling and associated staff cuts, leading to heated dispute with the unionized drivers. Not everyone was happy with Jones’ tenure, but that’s part of the nature of that type of job.

County officials said they have no immediate plans to replace Jones.

“We’ll look internally and see if want to make any structural changes,” said assistant county manager Thad Noll, explaining that the change in leadership could present an opportunity to rethink management of the transit system.

The Summit Stage continues to face budget challenges, Noll said, with costs increasing. But the overall budget picture is looking a bit brighter with sources of sales tax revenue coming online, he added, singling out the Lowe’s store in Silverthorne as a significant sales tax generator.

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