Federal Safety Funds Support Project to Reduce Commercial Truck Crashes on US 160 Wolf Creek Pass West

April 29, 2011 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - Work begins May 2; uniform traffic control by CSP will maintain safety through the work zone; fines doubled for speeding.

ARCHULETA COUNTY – There have been seven traffic incidents involving commercial vehicles/heavy trucks on US 160 over Wolf Creek Pass in 2011 thus far. The Colorado Department of Transportation is using federal Hazard Elimination System funds in hopes of reducing these incidents, which are not only detrimental to motorists involved, but can close down this corridor for hours, affecting thousands of travelers.

“US 160 is a vital east-west corridor—it is the closest road to an interstate that southwest Colorado will have in my lifetime and the most direct route for commuters, tourists and commerce to the shipping markets along the Front Range,” said State Transportation Commissioner Steve Parker, whose district covers 13 counties in southwest/south-central Colorado. “Keeping this mountain corridor safe and passable is a high priority.”

In 2009 and 2010, there was a total of 18 (10 in 2009 and seven in 2010) heavy truck crashes on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass. Speeding westbound through the switchbacks has been the primary cause, and two existing truck ramps have often gone unused.

“We want to do whatever we can to prevent these types of collisions,” CDOT Project Engineer Tommy Humphrey said. “Our project will include measures to improve highway safety as well as measures to warn motorists of the need to slow down—we hope the two will work together to decrease the accidents.”

The project was contracted to American Civil Constructors of Littleton for $2.7 million. Work will include enhanced warning signs (some larger, some dynamic); improvements to the lower of two truck ramps, including a straighter entrance, new surface and drainage, a pull-out area, new concrete barrier, and a catchment system near the pass’s overlook area to mitigate environmental spills in the event of a semi roll-over.

More specifically, the work will be conducted in phases, starting on Monday, May 2 and wrapping up in late fall 2011.

PHASE I: Installing four large permanent signs to warn trucks of steep grades and excessive speeds on the pass.  All four icon signs will include LED lights to enhance the warning message.  Two of these icon signs will be equipped with sensors to detect large speeding trucks and flash a “REDUCE SPEED” warning to truck drivers.

PHASE II: Reconstructing of the overlook barrier wall, installing a new gravel bed attenuator (to reduce crash impact) and signing; installing a HAZMAT catchment basin that will separate oil and water in case of fuel spills; curb ramps and fence repair at the overlook.

PHASE III: Rebuilding the lower truck ramp (nearest to the overlook) with new gravel, a drainage system and concrete barriers; realigning and extending the approach lane 1,200 feet to improve the design speed of the ramp for runaway vehicles; adding an area near the approach lane for trucks to stop and cool brakes; and constructing second HAZMAT catchment basin.

TRAVEL IMPACTS – Throughout the majority of the project, there will be restrictions on oversize vehicles for westbound US 160 as well as a short single-lane closure of the eastbound uphill climbing lane in the work zone (west of the summit between mile points 160 and 161).  The uphill climbing lane closure for Phase I and Phase II will occur Monday through Friday, during daylight hours (there will be no lane closures outside of daylight hours). The lane closure during Phase III will remain in place 24/7.  Some weekend work may be necessary in order to complete the project by late fall 2011. Uniformed Traffic Control by the Colorado State Patrol will be in place to help maintain safety through the work zones. Double fines for speeding through the work zone will be strictly enforced. CDOT and ACC thank motorists for going Slow for the Cone Zone!

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