Study shows less accidents, delays on I-70 corridor last winter
The Colorado Department of Transportation reported significantly reduced crashes, delays and closures on the Interstate 70 mountain corridor last winter, according to a survey released on Monday. The highway saw a 45 percent decrease in weather-related crashes, a 35 percent decrease in injury and fatal crashes, a 16 percent decrease in unplanned closure time, and a 25 percent decrease in eastbound delays exceeding 75 minutes.
“We were pleased that the strategies we have and continue to implement are making a difference in the I-70 experience for all travelers,” Ryan Rice, CDOT director of transportation systems management and operations, said in a statement. “By improving our operations and educating the public on how they can stay safe during their drive, we can save lives and reduce the frustrations travelers experience during a trip in the mountains.”
The changes were attributed to several factors, including a widening project to the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels, an $8 million investment to deploy new snowplows in the corridor, as well as the metering of traffic entering I-70 at key locations. Last winter, the highway also saw less severe, but more frequent winter storms.
“We really wanted to see whether the work and the effort we put into this winter made a difference,” said CDOT director of communications Amy Ford. She added that the average travel time through the corridor spanned 55 minutes.
Ford added that a large piece of the change was drivers’ responses to CDOT’s “Change your peak drive” campaign, encouraging drivers to equip their vehicles with adequate snow tires, carpool, travel during off-peak times and stay informed of road conditions before leaving.
“We encouraged tire checks and offered discounts for people who wanted to buy new tires,” Ford said. She added that the campaign was in light of a particularly bad storm the winter of 2013, where 86 percent of vehicles that had spun out on the road had bald tires.
A poll of more than 2,500 Colorado drivers conducted by the National Research Center showed that “weekend warriors” who frequent the I-70 corridor may have taken CDOT’s education goals to heart. According to the report, 76 percent of polled I-70 travellers had their tires checked for adequate tread during the winter, and 46 percent purchased new tires. In addition, 61 percent of drivers said they carpooled with family or friends, reducing the number of cars moving through the corridor.
“This was a reassuring statistic to see people were taking that seriously and looking at it,” Ford said. She added that CDOT is analyzing the results of the survey to create a plan for the upcoming winter.
“We’re determining how we’re going to continue next year,” Ford said. “We also need to streamline operations on the corridor.”
CDOT is currently constructing an express lane on eastbound I-70 that drivers could use for a toll. Ford said the lane will be completed by the end of the year, with an estimated 30 percent travel time improvement for drivers who opt to use the toll road.
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