Winter conditions frequently force Dillon Dam Road to close |

Winter conditions frequently force Dillon Dam Road to close

SUMMIT COUNTY – When the winter wind whips up, the Dillon Dam Road often shuts down.

That’s vexing for some drivers, particularly because it cuts down the options for getting from one side of the lake to the other, but the blinding conditions created by wind and snow make it a necessity.

And for that, local law enforcement officials are glad.

“It probably alleviates some problems for us,” said Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Jon Sandridge. “If we’re busy on the interstate and we’ve got crashes on the dam road, we have to see if we can attend to those also or have the sheriff’s department help out.”

The Dillon Dam Road shuts down between 10 and 15 times a year, said Summit County road and bridge director John Polhemus. It’s not just visibility that creates problems during a winter storm; plow drivers simply can’t keep ahead of the drifting snow.

“If the wind is blowing, (the dam road) will stay open about 15 to 20 minutes without a plow on it constantly,” he said. “That’s how fast it will start drifting in to the point that the cars will start getting hung up. It doesn’t take much wind to do it.”

The problem is created by wind-driven snow that blows up and over the top of the dam, then whips sideways across the road that runs on top of the structure.

The bulk of the complaints the county receives about the road aren’t about the closures themselves but about the signs alerting drivers to the closures. The information is posted on orange signs along northbound Summit Boulevard, on several more signs near the Frisco Holiday Inn, and on the Dillon side of the road. The signs are flipped down to show the “road closed” message on stormy days that require closures.

In Frisco, however, drivers often miss the signs and sometimes proceed as far as a locked gate at the Glory Hole before realizing their folly.

“You’d be surprised how many people drive past all these signs,” Polhemus said. “We made the sign (on Summit Boulevard) bigger the first of the year.

“A reader board would be the ideal way to address that,” he said, referring to the electronic signs posted elsewhere along I-70. “It’s been discussed. But somebody’s got to decide who’s going to pay for it. Those start at $50,000.”

Summit Cove resident Gary Lorch said he’d like to see the Dillon Dam Road open more quickly once storms have passed. It typically reopens by 11 a.m. on the day after a storm-induced closure.

“Silverthorne hill is way more dangerous and a lot less convenient than driving the dam road,” he said. “I’d like to see them focus less on plowing my side streets and getting the Dillon Dam Road open.”

But it’s not that easy, Polhemus said. Two separate crews are responsible for Summit Cove and the dam road.

“The crew that takes care of the dam road also takes care of the school routes in Dillon Valley and Mesa Cortina and the Summit Stage (routes),” he said. “The dam road is a secondary road, and there are ways around it.”

An estimated 5,500 cars travel the Dillon Dam Road daily, according to Polhemus.

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