Editorial: On the right track with I-70
Some locals will remember “back in the day” when I-70 traffic was heavy eastbound they used to employ one of the lanes of the westbound side of the tunnel for eastbound traffic (and, occasionally, vice-versa). It helped, but was discarded as a solution when the volume of traffic westbound became great enough that it would simply have shifted the problem from one direction to another. But the idea of using the existing roads to help ease traffic jams was and is still sound, which is why the notion of trying moveable barriers to create “zipper lanes” is something well worth pursuing.
Our State Sen. Dan Gibbs is sponsoring a bill to do just that – although the Colorado Department of Transportation along with the I-70 Coalition has actually been studying the feasibility of this for some time now. Whether it’s a legislative action or simply a change of policy on CDOT’s part is immaterial; the upshot is it’s another potentially valuable tool to help alleviate what’s become a rather painful Sunday ritual for Sunday travelers winter and summer: I-70 gridlock.
The zipper lane idea is relatively simple: Deploy moveable barricades in Clear Creek County where much of the Sunday gridlock occurs. They would allow one of the westbound lanes to be used for eastbound traffic, then switched back to normal when things loosen up. While this technology is used elsewhere, it’s no secret that this stretch of I-70 is prone to extreme winter weather, so it remains to be seen whether it’s truly feasible to keep the plows going under this scenario – not to mention the ability to keep things clear when accidents occur on either side of the interstate.
As it becomes increasingly obvious that great piles of money are not soon going to fall from the sky to build a monorail or to expand I-70 through the mountain corridor, we need to be open to any and all potential ways to make the best with the highway we have. That includes not just applying new rules and penalties to truckers but doing what we can to reach out to passenger car drivers: real-time information about road conditions; incentives to stay for dinner or overnight in Summit County; pressure on rental car companies to supply vehicles with better tires; exploring how the Frontage Road between Georgetown and Idaho Springs could be more effectively used; and any other ways to either keep cars off the road at peak times or keep them moving once there. It may also be worth looking at the possibility of keeping the big rigs off the road altogether on Sundays during peak traffic months. If this past Sunday was any indication, they are a big part of the problem.
In reality, the I-70 problem only exists on a dozen or so days per year, but it would certainly seem to have a chilling effect on those who would visit the high country for the weekend, summer or winter. Pushing for solutions that are doable in the short-term and affordable needs to be continuously pursued – our mountain economies depend on it.
The Summit Daily Editorial Board consists of Jim Morgan, Alex Miller, Ryan Wondercheck, Matt Sandberg, Jim Ernst and Miles Porter.
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