CDOT could consider allowing hazmat trucks through Eisenhower Tunnel | SteamboatToday.com

CDOT could consider allowing hazmat trucks through Eisenhower Tunnel

Sawyer D'Argonne
Summit Daily

FRISCO — For the average driver, braving the twists and turns along Loveland Pass can offer breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountain landscape or white knuckles for anyone caught in winter weather.

But for truckers carrying hazardous materials, weighed down with potentially thousands of gallons of highly toxic or combustible substances, the stakes are considerably higher.

Currently, trucks carrying hazardous materials across the Continental Divide aren't allowed to travel through the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70, except during certain periods with Colorado Department of Transportation escorts. Instead the trucks are routed up U.S. Highway 6 and over the often-treacherous pass.

But a new bill recently passed by the state Senate could help to change that.

In January, state Sen. Ray Scott and Rep. Julie McCluskie introduced a new bill to the Colorado Senate that would task CDOT with studying the feasibility of allowing the transportation of hazardous materials through the tunnel in an effort to increase safety for truck drivers and the neighboring communities.

"Truckers have expressed concerns for their safety," said McCluskie. "Having a study that addresses their concerns with the highway and geography could go a long way. If they're coming through the tunnel, we want to make sure we're aware of what the impacts could be if there was an accident and how best to mitigate negative impacts. Raising public safety is our top priority."

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If the bill passes, CDOT would study the impacts of potential hazmat accidents on I-70 and Loveland Pass — including environmental and life safety concerns in areas around the pass like Keystone Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area — along with potential improvements to make I-70 a safer option for hazmat transport. Additionally, the study would analyze the risk levels of allowing hazmat transportation through the tunnel at all times versus on a limited basis, and dissect questions surrounding whether some materials would be subject to different restrictions than others.

"Loveland Pass is viewed as one of the most hazardous roadways in the country, particularly in winter for truckers," said Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, who voiced strong support for the study. "Between 100 mph winds, ice- and snow-covered roadways and limited shoulders, the road is extremely difficult to navigate. … We've had drivers die or get injuries, and we owe it to our drivers and their families to see if we can end up having a safer manner for them to get through the pass."

The bill passed unanimously on third reading in the state Senate late last month and is scheduled for a hearing in front of the House Transportation and Local Government Committee on Feb. 26. If passed, CDOT will have until December 2020 to complete the study.

Read more at SummitDaily.com

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