It is it time to get trucks off I-70 during peak periods? |

It is it time to get trucks off I-70 during peak periods?

Special to the Daily/John GardnerAftermath of Sunday's accident on Interstate 70.

Sunday was another awful night to be on Interstate 70. When a semi carrying bags of an industrial material lost its brakes and collided with an SUV, the result was three injured people and a complete shut-down of the Interstate that lasted hours. The incident occurred in the westbound lane just east of Silverthorne.

Both lanes of I-70 were closed after the incident around 3:45 p.m. – just as the typically heavy ski traffic was trying to exit the county. Traffic was diverted over Loveland Pass, which turned into a snaking parking lot over the Continental Divide. The eastbound approach to the tunnel reopened about 6:15 p.m., but westbound didn’t reopen until about 9.

The incident underscores the oftentimes problematic sharing of the interstate between big rigs and skiers driving to and from the resorts. As the state struggles to find ways to address I-70 gridlock with less-expensive solutions than, say, a rail or highway widening project, one suggestion has been banning trucks outright from the interstate during peak travel times. Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who worked on a number of transportation bills while in the state Senate, said such a ban could be “a real positive” for the highway. He said he introduced a bill that would have required trucks to stay in the right lane between Golden and Vail.

“It didn’t say they couldn’t go on the corridor, but I really do think a lot of times these wrecks occur when the truckers who don’t know the road just go way too fast,” Gibbs said.

He added that the runaway truck ramps on the west side of the tunnel along I-70 are among the most heavily used in the country.

“The trucking lobby is very powerful, and at the end of the day you’ve got to get a bill out of the Senate and House transportation committees to do something like that,” Gibbs said. “I just think we’re at a breaking point on I-70. I’ve talked to people on the Front Range who tell me they used to come up here, and they don’t anymore because the I-70 traffic is so bad.”

Gibbs added that an hour of closure on I-70 is estimated to equal $1 million in lost revenue for the resort communities.

“I’m concerned that when people have enough bad experiences they’ll say ‘Let’s go to Utah,'” he said. “But really it’s about life and safety.”

The truck that wrecked Sunday afternoon was carrying sulfatrol, a material used in oil and gas drilling. An unknown amount spilled, but authorities don’t think it poses a hazard. Trucks carrying hazmat loads are normally required to take Loveland Pass, but a spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol said he didn’t know if the spilled material was a hazardous material in the state it was in.

The state patrol said the truck sideswiped a Chevrolet Trailblazer, injuring three people. One was seriously hurt but the injuries aren’t considered life-threatening.

Fifty-nine-year-old Mona Hauan of Amarillo, Texas, was cited for careless driving. Troopers believe she was driving too fast for the steep grade.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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