SUMMIT COUNTY—Colorado highway managers say they're fully staffed and prepared to maintain the I-70 corridor, with CDOT crews scheduled to start snow shifts Wednesday as what could be the first significant snow of the year approaches the high country.
At the same time, the transportation department and the Colorado State Patrol urged motorist to slow down when the snow hits, explaining that there is often a spate of accidents during the first few storms, as drivers sometimes forget to adjust for changing conditions.
“We’re prepared 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 available resources will be up and operating, keeping the highways open and safe for travel this winter.”
The Paul Maintenance Area, which includes most of Summit and Clear Creek counties, and a small area of Grand County, has 52 maintenance workers and 45 trucks. A minimum of 20 trucks are operating 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.
Paul-Area crews take care of 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, Berthoud and the east side of Vail) and the Eisenhower Tunnel approaches.
Even during a low-snow year like last winter, the crews in the area plowed a total of 354,020 miles — to the moon and halfway back. Crews also sprayed 939,653 gallons of de-icer, spread 31,588 tons of sand and salt and ice slicer and spent 5,932 hours in other snow removal-type activities.
“We’re doing all we can to keep the traveling public safe so please remember to give our snowplows enough room to clear the road when you’re in the vicinity of our removal operations, which allows our drivers to do their job effectively and makes it easier for drivers to travel in snowy conditions,” said Al Martinez, deputy maintenance superintendent for the Mary Area, just east of the Continental Divide.
“Preparation’s also crucial. Drivers should know what conditions to expect before they head out and have their vehicle ready for travel during adverse weather, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of others on the road as well," he said.
High country CDOT 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 (two12-hour shifts – 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. and 12 a.m. to 12 p.m.).
Current road and weather conditions are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via reports and traffic cameras on the 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 travel tips:
1. Log on to CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at: http://www.coloradodot.info/travel/winter-driving for road conditions winter driving tips and other information.
2. 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.
3. If you are stuck in a serious storm do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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!