Dear Dan Gibbs and the Summit County community
I have been a Summit County resident since 1991 and a daily commuter over Vail Pass since 2004. I have driven through snowstorms, windstorms, ice storms and other adverse road and weather conditions for many years with a trusty Subaru and good snow tires. I have never felt at risk driving until this year.
Some people would say I should just work in Summit County rather than commute over Vail Pass; however, I write this not only for myself, but for any person who is obligated to use the only artery available to traverse the mountain towns in Summit, Eagle, Lake, Garfield and Pitkin counties.
I feel equal resentment toward both CDOT and truckers who ignore the chain law. In regards to CDOT, I am appalled that truckers are not directed to keep their chains on for downhill stretches from the top of Vail Pass and Eisenhower Tunnel in either direction. The enormous car pileup this winter was clearly an issue of poor downhill braking ability. While surely CDOT has its reasons, I wonder how they could tell the family of the man who died that chains are not necessary going downhill.
CDOT has made bizarre decisions to remove the chain law in the middle of a snowy day, then seem to wait until there is an accident before putting it back up. When I left work at 4 p.m. on May 1, (the chain law had been off throughout the middle of the day) I sat for 2 hours in stopped traffic due to a jack-knifed, unchained semi. I also find it interesting that during that time when I talked to my husband at home, he found no information on CDOT’s website, cotrip.org, regarding any sort of slow down due to an accident, delay or closure. Krystal 93 also reported no problem during this time other than that the chain law was in effect for EB I-70.
Which leads me to my next point. At that time, the chain law may have been in effect again; however, truckers this year seem to feel immune to following this particular law. This is peculiar since violations were recently made more consequential and chain up areas have been added and improved.
This winter, Vail Pass commuters in the mountains regularly experienced drive times from one hour to up to four hours, including going the long way via Tennessee Pass, or even overnight when Vail Pass closed. I realize that CSP (Colorado State Patrol) has a lot on their hands when it snows, and that they do a commendable job, but are they really so stretched that they can’t enforce the chain law on days when the lack of enforcement results in untoward delays, accidents, and even deaths?
Residents of Summit and Eagle counties, tourists, movers of goods and services, and commuters all have a stake in safe travel on I-70. I urge anyone who has been negatively impacted by driving this winter on I-70 over Vail Pass or other mountain stretches, to make a statement to CDOT, your state representative, and highway patrol about your concerns. Although one would think that truckers would rather get their loads delivered, that CDOT would rather keep their roads open, and that CSP would like to ticket those who ignore the chain law, clearly these are not the priorities motivating the culpable parties.
Just because spring seems to have finally arrived, let’s not forget that next winter will be here all too soon. Take action now!
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