Last year, the Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) improved operations and Change Your Peak Drive campaign helped achieve a 35 percent decrease in fatal and injury crashes and a 46 percent decrease in weather-related crashes along the I-70 Mountain Corridor. Working to build upon last year's success, CDOT, the Colorado State Patrol (CSP), I-70 Coalition and Colorado Motor Carriers Association (CMCA) are joining forces to decrease congestion and increase safety and reliability along the Mountain Corridor.
Two major changes coming to the Mountain Corridor include the implementation of Passenger Vehicle Traction and Chain Laws and the launch of the I-70 Mountain Express Lane. CDOT will continue to implement a variety of different operational strategies in the corridor, including safety metering at the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel, safety metering and snow plow escorts from Silverthorne, Frisco and Copper Mountain and improved incident management response.
If weather conditions require, CDOT will implement a Traction Law, also known as a Code 15. Under a Traction Law, all passenger vehicles will need to have either snow tires, tires with the mud/snow (M/S) designation, or a four-wheel drive vehicle -- all tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.
During severe winter storms, CDOT will implement a Passenger Vehicle Chain Law, also known as a Code 16 -- this is the final safety measure before the highway is closed. Under a Passenger Vehicle Chain Law, every vehicle on the roadway is required to have chains or an alternative traction device (like AutoSock).
When either of these laws are in effect, motorists can be fined more than $130 for not having proper equipment or more than $650 if they block the roadway. Colorado State Patrol will not be proactively checking for proper equipment, but instead have the option of issuing a ticket when they respond to an incident.
"We spent last year educating the public about the need for good tires and they listened, with more than 70 percent saying they checked their tires before traveling in the I-70 corridor," said Amy Ford, CDOT Director of Communications. "Drivers should expect in general when they see a chain law required for truckers that the traction law will likely be required for passenger vehicles."
To encourage motorists to invest in the proper equipment, CDOT is again partnering with tire companies across the state to provide discounts on winter tires. CDOT and tire partners will lead tire checks at resorts and major events, letting Coloradans know if their tires meet the requirements of the Traction Law. To find the nearest tire partner, Coloradans can visit winter.codot.gov/tires.
In addition to traction laws, CSP will again be focusing on educating the public about the Move It Law, which requires motorists to move their vehicles off the roadway and to a safe location if the vehicle is drivable, there are no injuries and no drugs or alcohol are involved.
"Traffic crashes -- not volume -- account for 60 percent of all traffic delays," said Major Steve Garcia with the Colorado State Patrol. "Law enforcement and insurance companies will not penalize motorists for moving their vehicle off the roadway after a crash. Moving your crash is the simplest and safest way to keep traffic flowing along one of the most traveled corridors in the state."
Other major aspects of the Change Your Peak Drive campaign include a partnership between CDOT and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association (CMCA) to continue to educate truckers about how to travel through the I-70 Mountain Corridor and the requirements and fines associated with Colorado chain laws.
CDOT will also expand its live streaming Mountain Travel Radio on COtrip.org, providing motorists with the most accurate and up-to-date travel information, special Peak Time deals and mountain event information, now airing on Friday afternoons, Saturday and Sunday mornings/afternoons, and on holidays.
The I-70 Coalition, a consortium representing the mountain communities and resorts, will continue to give travel tips and travel forecasts, and to offer discounts, deals and incentives for travelers interested in avoiding traffic by staying in the mountains for an extra hour or two. Peak Time Deals at GoI70.com are updated regularly, and list locations of restaurants, entertainment options and retailers along the I-70 Mountain Corridor offering weekend discounts.
Lastly, another major change that motorists will notice is the new I-70 Mountain Express Lane, a 13-mile toll lane that runs between Empire and Idaho Springs and operates only during peak travel times. The lane will use dynamic pricing to keep travel reliable and save motorists an average of 30 minutes. All drivers (including HOV) will pay a toll to use the lane and travelers can save by getting a switchable transponder or ExpressToll sticker.
To learn more about the Change Your Peak Drive campaign and the strategies CDOT implements along the corridor, visit winter.codot.gov.
A collaborative effort between the Delta County Sheriff's Office and municipal law enforcement agencies throughout Delta County has resulted in a proposal for a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund public safety. A PowerPoint presentation titled "Back the Badge" is starting to make the rounds at city/town council meetings, service club luncheons and other events.