Successful Season for I-70 West Winter Programs

June 8, 2011 - Heavy Tow Quick Clearance, Chain Assistance and Courtesy Patrol aided Travelers - DENVER – The Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) wintertime programs continued to reduce traffic congestion and delays along the Interstate 70 West corridor last winter.

Quick Clearance is a program that provides standby heavy wreckers at strategic locations along I-70, between Floyd Hill and Vail Pass, allowing stalled and spun-out commercial vehicles to be moved quickly from traffic lanes to a safe location.  CDOT contracted with USAC/Drive America to provide the service.

The 2010-2011 program began Thanksgiving weekend and ended in late April.  It included all weekends and holidays and two other separate occasions – one severe storm and when I-70 was closed during the day for rock removal at Georgetown Hill in early April.  Overall:

  • 193 commercial vehicles relocated
  • 214 lanes cleared
  • Average clearance time – reduced to 22 minutes

“We’re very pleased that the clearance times for Heavy Tow continue to go down each year,” says CDOT Regional Transportation Director Tony DeVito.  “It’s been a major success at reducing lane closures and the delay times on I-70 which, in turn, enhances highway safety for all users.”

The average clearance time before implementation of the Quick Clearance program was approximately 50 minutes.  It averaged 27 minutes during the program’s first season, in late 2008; 23 minutes during the 2009/2010 season.

CDOT also put its Chain Assistance program into service for a third straight year.  By law, commercial vehicles are required to carry chains for travel on I-70 between Dotsero and the Morrison exit from September 1 through May 31. To help truckers comply when the chain law is in effect, drivers can purchase chains and chain-up service from approved vendors when they are present at any one of the 21 chain stations along I-70.

During the 2010/2011 winter season, three companies sold 252 sets of chains and installed 445.

“When we look at the number of closures we experienced on the corridor, it’s gone down significantly from 2007-2008 – the season before we put Heavy Tow and Chain Assistance into operation,” added DeVito.  “These programs have directly addressed those non-accident problems, such as having no chains and vehicle break downs.”*

The Courtesy Patrol provided drivers of passenger and other smaller vehicles with free roadside assistance for services such as flat tires, fuel or water transfer, jump starts, short-distance towing, accident scene protection and minor mechanical assistance.  Three trucks patrolled I-70 between the top of Floyd Hill and Silverthorne on weekends and holidays, from Thanksgiving to the end of March.  During the 2010-2011 winter season, the Courtesy Patrol assisted 766 vehicles.

“All of these programs have been effective at reducing congestion and delay times on the I-70 Corridor,” said DeVito.  “I-70 can lose about 50% of its capacity when just one lane is closed, and 65% when two lanes are blocked, which can cost thousands of dollars in lost revenue and hours of travel delays.  Providing these services allows us to get traffic moving again in a timely manner, providing benefits for trade, tourism and recreation that far outweigh the cost, which is just over $695,000 a year.”

Studies have shown that for every hour the I-70 West Corridor is closed to traffic, it can have an economic impact of up to $800,000, with a majority of those revenues affecting surrounding communities.

*Summary of I-70 Events between Vail Pass and Morrison Road Interchange

September 1, 2007 to April 30, 2008 (to East Vail)

  • Implemented Chain Law:                 316
  • Total Accidents:                            297 (Commercial Vehicles 156/Non-Commercial Vehicles 141)

(including both single & multi-vehicle crashes or property damage only)

  • Closures due to adverse weather:     20 (93 hours, 32 minutes)
  • Other Closures:                              317 (No chains, breakdowns, out of fuel, etc.)

September 1, 2008 to April 30, 2009 (to East Vail)

  • Implemented Chain Law:                    284
  • Total Accidents:                               133 (Commercial Vehicles 47/Non-Commercial Vehicles 86)
  • Closures due to adverse weather:        25 (69 hours, 17 minutes)
  • Other Closures:                                134 (No chains, breakdowns, out of fuel, etc.)

September 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010 to

  • Implemented Chain Law:                     217
  • Total Accidents:                                 63 (Commercial Vehicles 48/Non-Commercial Vehicles 15)
  • Closures due to adverse weather:         12 (34 hours, 47 minutes)
  • Other Closures:                                 104 (No chains, breakdowns, out of fuel, etc.)

September 1, 2010 to April 30, 2011

  • Implemented Chain Law:                      220
  • Total Accidents:                                 159 (Commercial Vehicles 39/Non-Commercial Vehicles 120)
  • Closures due to adverse weather:           31 (84 hours, 4 minutes)
  • Other Closures:                                     4 (Sun glare; medical emergency, grass fire, rock mitigation)