CDOT: I-70 saw fewer accidents, delays this winter
Steamboat Springs — The drive between the High Country and the Front Range via Interstate 70 in the mountains was safer and quicker this winter for many motorists, according to new data released by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The number of accidents involving injuries or fatalities was down 35 percent, while the number of weather-related crashes fell 46 percent, according CDOT.
Eastbound delays lasting longer than 75 minutes on the interstate were also down by 26 percent.
What’s behind the decreases?
CDOT officials say their public education efforts, infrastructure improvements and operational changes, such as adding more snowplow drivers, helped reduce the number of crashes and duration of delays.
The transportation agency invested $8 million to add the plow drivers and fund other strategies, such as snowplow escorts at the Eisenhower Tunnel approach.
Asked how the lower snowfall in the Rockies last year factored into the winter results, CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said the weather was a small factor, but not an overriding one.
She noted while snowfall amounts were down, the frequency of storms was actually up.
Kathy Connell, who represents Northwest Colorado on the state’s Transportation Commission, said the results from last winter on I-70 were positive, but much work remains.
“I think what’s really going to change these numbers is to figure out how to disincentivize those huge trucks from being there during peak times on long weekends,” she said. “When one of those trucks jackknifes, its a far bigger issue than if it’s a car. How do we incentivize them to go Monday through Thursday?”
Connell called recent efforts from CDOT to improve traffic flow on Interstate 70 invaluable.
These efforts include the widening of the Twin Tunnels and a public education campaign aimed at getting more drivers to check their tires and to not travel on the interstate during peak times.
Even with the changes and investments, however, Connell said the weather will continue to be a big influence on the number of accidents and delays on the road.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction, but I think the weather did have a huge impact” on reducing accidents and delays, Connell said. “We had a very mild winter as far as temperature. We didn’t have the wild storms we had the year before. The efforts CDOT has made have been invaluable, but the true test is when we have the wild storms we had the year before.”
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