Everyone has to have heard about the horrors of Colorado’s I-70 by now. Personally, I experience the problems nearly every weekend, and though I’m fortunate to just be traveling for the sake of skiing, there are certainly people who are financially affected by the stop and go traffic (not to mention the amount of gas it can wind up using, and gas is pricy nowadays). We even published a Letter to the Editor about the disgraceful highway just last week. It seems as if the more you pay attention to the highway, the more you start to realize that nothing has been or will be done to fix the problems.
Fortunately, Colorado House District 57 Rep. Elizabeth Velasco of Glenwood Springs has actually begun to spark some sort of a conversation surrounding the issues, gathering regional and state officials to discuss the specific issue of highway closures in Glenwood Canyon (a portion of the highway past the major front range mountains, but still important for getting from Denver to Aspen and the rest of western Colorado).
According to the Aspen Times, the Colorado Department of Transportation points at driving too fast for conditions as the leading cause and contributor to crash closures in the canyon. A news release from the organization suggests paving Cottonwood Pass and adding new penalties and legislative changes as potential fixes for the closures.
“Agencies are evaluating a range of options for limiting truck access to the canyon in certain weather conditions, especially when Wyoming has closed I-80. This includes determining traffic volumes and parking needs for pullovers, and the feasibility of allowing trucks to go through in storms only when escorted by a state vehicle in a convoy.” – Colorado Department of Transportation
Other suggested fixes include left lane restrictions for commercial vehicles throughout several sections of I-70 (there is already a restriction through Glenwood Canyon) and pilot vehicles, though staffing shortages may make that extremely difficult. A major suggestion from residents is camera ticketing, though the state does not allow cameras for state highways and caps the penalty for photo speeding citations at $40.
From my own experience traveling on I-70, it really seems as if semi trucks are the number one cause of traffic, whether that’s because of crashes or just straight up poor driving. On top of that, there seems to be a ton of reckless driving in some very poor conditions, ranging from speeding, terrible lane changes, slow driving in the passing lane, and tailgating (the driving to close to the person in front of you type, not the party before a sports event type).
I might get some hate for saying this, but while I-70 certainly could use some infrastructure work, my honest opinion is that the best fix for the problems along the highway will come from significantly heavier enforcement of existing laws. Semi trucks and cars should be pulled over for speeding, tailgating, sitting in the passing lane, not following traction laws, and everything else. If I-70 is known as a harsh location for traffic tickets, maybe people will be more cautious and I-70 will close less often, hopefully reducing traffic.
Image Credit: Colorado Department of Transportation via Facebook (every image featured in this article comes from the Glenwood Canyon area)