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Motorcycle crash victim identified as 61 y.o. Avon man

The man killed in a motorcycle crash on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon Friday evening has been identified as Daniel Schaub, 61, of Avon, according to the Garfield County Coroner’s Office.

The wreck happened a little after 5 p.m. Friday in the westbound lanes at mile marker 122 near the Hanging Lake Tunnels, about eight miles east of Glenwood Springs.

The wreck did not involve any other vehicles, but the westbound lanes were closed for more than two hours while the crash was being investigated.

Colorado State Patrol Trooper Gary Cutler said Schaub was ejected from his bike into the median. He was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, according to the coroner’s release. An autopsy is scheduled for early next week.

Eastbound I-70 was closed for a short time immediately after the crash. Westbound I-70 was closed from about 5:30 until 7:45 p.m. when traffic backed up for several miles east of the tunnel was allowed to proceed. Traffic was also being diverted off I-70 at Dotsero.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Man killed in motorcycle crash on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon Friday evening

A 61-year-old man was killed in a motorcycle wreck on westbound Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon east of Glenwood Springs a little after 5 p.m. Friday.

The wreck did not involve any other vehicles, but did close the westbound lanes for more than two hours to start the busy Easter holiday weekend.

Colorado State Patrol Trooper Gary Cutler said the accident happened about 5:12 p.m. in the westbound lanes of I-70 west of the Hanging Lake Tunnels at milemarker 122.

The rider, who was not identified pending notification of family, was ejected and thrown into the eastbound lanes, Cutler said.

Westbound I-70 was closed until about 7:45 p.m., when traffic stuck in the tunnel and stretching several miles east was allowed to proceed. Traffic was also being diverted off I-70 at Dotsero.

Chain law clears Senate just before spring blizzard

Coloradans will face new chain rules for driving through the mountains in the winter, but not in time for the current blizzard pummeling the Front Range.

The Colorado Senate voted Monday to approve the Winter Conditions and Traction Control Requirements, sponsored by Carbondale Republican Sen. Bob Rankin and Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat.

The bill, which passed the Senate in 27-to-6 vote and cleared the House 46-18 on March 11, sets minimum standards for those driving between Dotsero and Morrison on Interstate 70 between September and June.

Drivers who don’t carry snow tires, chains, or don’t have vehicles with all-wheel or four-wheel drive could face a $100 fine.

“Up in the mountains, weather can change rapidly. The Eisenhower Pass and Vail Pass are some of the most treacherous stretches of interstate in the nation and we should all have the equipment to make that trip safely,” Donovan said in a statement. “This bill will require all drivers to follow the same rules making I-70 safer and more efficient.”

Rankin previously attempted to pass the bill in 2015.  

CDOT and the Colorado State Patrol will look into ways to enforce the update chain restrictions over the summer if the bill clears the governor’s desk, and make recommendations to the Senate Transportation Committee.


tphippen@postindependent.com

Avalanche work closing parts of I-70 in Colorado mountains

DENVER (AP) — Work to trigger avalanches is shutting down portions of Colorado’s Interstate 70.

Crews were using explosives dropped from helicopters to trigger intentional avalanches at a few spots along the busy highway Sunday, causing rolling closures. The Colorado Department of Transportation said that the avalanche triggered in the first operation, on Vail Pass, wasn’t big enough to reach the road, an improvement from recent days.

A couple of avalanches occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday on secondary highways and roads in the Aspen area. No vehicles were caught in the slides and no one was hurt.

Multiple cars buried after avalanche on Highway 91 near Copper Mountain

At about 4 p.m. Thursday a massive avalanche hit Highway 91 by milepost 21, near Copper Mountain. Four cars were trapped in the slide, and there were no reports of injuries.

The avalanche covered about 300 feet of the roadway, with snow about 15 feet deep, said Colin Remillard, a spokesman with the Colorado State Patrol. The people inside the cars were rescued, though the cars are still buried on the roadway.

Remillard said that in addition to the massive avalanche that trapped cars on Highway 91, there were “multiple” others in the same area. Where exactly they occurred or to what extent is currently unknown.

Charles Pitman, spokesperson with the Summit Rescue Group, said at least one vehicle was turned completely upside down and totally buried.

The Colorado Department of Transportation said the road would remain closed overnight.

“Natural avalanche on CO 91 was on Resolute Cliff, a path that has NEVER run before & is on the opposite side of the rd,” CDOT said in a Twitter update. “We have not done mitigation on this path in the past.”

Avalanches bury stretches of I-70, as CDOT braces for more snow

Portions of Interstate 70 in Summit County were shut down for hours Thursday, due to both natural avalanches and mitigation efforts, and the Colorado Department of Transportation is bracing for more storms heading into the weekend.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction issued a winter storm warning above 8,000 feet in elevation from Friday morning to Saturday morning, as another system moves across the mountains.

The number of avalanches has not yet been estimated by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, but director Ethan Greene said what he’s seeing is historic.

“We spend a lot of time talking to observers and people retired from the avalanche center, people retired from CDOT” about avalanches, Greene said.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that nobody that is alive has seen a week like this,” Greene said.

“Every inch of avalanche terrain is extremely dangerous today,” CAIC said in a statement Thursday. “Avalanches are running to valley floors and some are exceeding historic run outs.”

CAIC upgraded avalanche risk to extreme for the Aspen and Vail areas, as well as Gunnison and Summit counties Thursday. Extreme is the highest risk level.

Several natural avalanches shut down parts of I-70 and other roads in the mountains for most of Thursday, forcing passenger vehicles through alternate routes, and causing commercial vehicles to find places to park.

Around 1 a.m. Thursday, a natural avalanche covered portions of the westbound lanes on I-70 between Copper Mountain and Frisco, CDOT spokesperson Tracy Trulove said. Avalanche mitigation efforts brought down more snow along the road, nearly 100 feet wide and 15 feet deep in some places, she said, which had to be cleaned up.

An avalanche near the Conoco station at Copper Mountain ruptured a natural-gas line early Thursday.

CDOT advised drivers to avoid traversing the mountains if possible throughout the day.

Shortly after CDOT announced Thursday afternoon that U.S. Highway 91 between Copper Mountain and Leadville was reopened and commercial trucks were allowed to go over the pass, another avalanche forced crews to shut down the highway again.

Despite the hazardous roads and economic loss due to closed roads, the high precipitation means snowpack across the state is far above normal.

“Statewide, our snowpack as of now 127 percent of normal” according to SNOTEL data, said Jimmy Fowler, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Colorado has also surpassed the normal peak snowpack for the season nearly a month ahead of schedule.

“We have now eclipsed our normal peak, which usually happens not until this time next month,” Fowler said.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Avalanche control closes I-70 near Georgetown

UPDATE 5 p.m. — CDOT anticipates opening Interstate 70 to traffic, east of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels, within the next two hours.

One lane of eastbound will open east from the Loveland Pass interchange. Both lanes of westbound will open west from the U.S. 40/Empire interchange, according to Bob Wilson, CDOT spokesman.

“Traffic control will be in place on eastbound I-70 in the Herman Gulch area (three miles east of the Tunnels), reducing the highway to one lane where mitigation operations took place, due to damaged cable rail,” according to a news release. “Drivers should be prepared for slow moving traffic through that area.”

CDOT also will be metering commercial trucks back onto I-70 at the Loveland Pass interchange to maintain the safe movement of all traffic.

DENVER (AP) — Interstate 70 in central Colorado has been closed as crews conduct avalanche mitigation.

CDOT reports that both eastbound and westbound lanes of I-70 are covered by snow brought down in the Herman Gulch area east of the Eisenhower Tunnel. A 15-mile stretch of the interstate was closed between the tunnel and Georgetown.

CDOT says the interstate could be closed until mid-afternoon Tuesday as crews remove the snow.

The closure comes two days after an avalanche closed the interstate between Frisco and Copper Mountain. No injuries were reported in those incidents, though some vehicles were caught in the avalanche debris. Passersby also caught the slides on video, which were widely shared on social media.

Highway 133 south of McClure Pass closed for rockfall mitigation

UPDATE 3/7/19 — Colorado Department of Transportation officials have reopened Colorado 133 over McClure Pass as of early Thursday. Chains or alternative traction devises (ATDs) are required for all commercial vehicles, including buses, according to CDOT officials.

Colorado Highway 133 south of McClure Pass, the main route connecting the Roaring Fork and North Fork valleys, is was closed earlier this week due to rockfall danger.

Rock scaling and other mitigation efforts began Tuesday.

The closure was between mile markers 24 and 36. For updates, visit CDOT’s cotrip.org site.

I-70 reopens after second avalanche closed interstate near Copper Mountain

Interstate 70 has reopened after an avalanche closed the route Sunday by Copper Mountain.

Colorado State Patrol initially tweeted that there could be people trapped in the avalanche, which occurred about 4 p.m., but a CSP spokesman said that no cars were buried and no one was injured in the incident.

The avalanche comes after video of another avalanche in the same area Sunday morning was posted on social media on social media by Brandon Ciullo.

With heavy snowfall throughout the weekend, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche warning for the northern and central mountains.

I-70 weekend traffic from Denver to ski resorts “nightmarish”

DENVER (AP) — “Friends don’t let friends drive I-70.”

The tongue-in-cheek mantra is often uttered by Colorado skiers and snowboarders who frequent resorts far from the crowded mountain corridor, which funnels thousands of vehicles onto two lanes west of Denver every winter weekend.

“It’s nightmarish. Hours and hours in the car. I think the last time I went to Keystone (typically a 90-minute drive from Denver), I spent four hours getting there and five hours getting home,” said Cole Capsalis of Denver. “There was more time in the car than skiing.”

The 28-year-old product manager, who went to the University of Utah in part because it allowed him to hit the slopes up to 100 days a year, moved to Denver about six years ago. But his love of ski resorts quickly took a tumble because of horrendous traffic more akin to Los Angeles freeways.

So Capsalis ditched resorts for less crowded — albeit more dangerous — remote backcountry snowboarding.

“I would prefer to risk my life on some level … as opposed to sit in I-70 traffic on the weekends,” he said.

Traffic along the route has been common for years, but it’s exacerbated by a recent population boom in the Denver area.

“Traffic has increased incredibly statewide, and nowhere do you see that more actively than on the I-70 corridor,” said Amy Ford, a state transportation department spokeswoman.

Between 2010 and July 2017, the population in Denver and its suburbs increased by an average of nearly 51,000 annually.

In 2000, nearly 10.3 million vehicles on I-70 crossed the Continental Divide, which slices through the heart of Colorado’s ski country. That figure was about 13.4 million in 2018.

“It’s always going to get worse. We’re expecting that,” said Patrick Chavez, who works at a transportation department office at the mouth of two tunnels bored under the Divide. “We continue to try to find measures to mitigate and minimize the impact.”

But that’s getting harder as more people move to Colorado, he said.

Colorado’s population has increased 53 percent since 1990, while lane miles on the state’s highway system have only increased 2 percent, officials said.

The department’s typical $1.4 billion budget, 70 percent of which goes toward road maintenance, is only slightly bigger than neighboring Utah’s. But Colorado has 6,864 more highway lane miles (11,046 kilometers) and 2.4 million more residents.

Unlike Utah, Colorado doesn’t dip into sales tax to fund its transportation budget, and its state gas tax, the 12th lowest in the country, hasn’t been raised since George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

High-speed rail could be built through the corridor, but may cost between $11 billion and $32 billion depending on the route and type of train used, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the transportation department.

The three viable options would require significant right-of-way acquisition, and crews would have to blast between 15 and 35 tunnels. A train on the existing right-of-way would have to travel so slowly on the interstate’s curves and grades that it couldn’t compete with driving.

That means transportation officials will continue to rely on smaller-scale solutions to an increasingly difficult problem.

They’re quicker at clearing accidents. They’ve installed traffic information signs at resorts and in-pavement LED lighting on areas of the interstate with poor visibility. They’ve widened tunnels and introduced a bus system that runs on I-70. And they’ve built a 13-mile (21-kilometer) toll road at a notorious pinch point on eastbound I-70.

All those steps, Ford said, have had a positive effect and reduced the number of accidents.

In 2008, nearly 1,900 accidents were reported along the corridor and in 2017, about 1,200 accidents were reported.

The transportation department also is doing a relatively good job of keeping traffic flowing through the roughly 100-mile (161-kilometer) stretch that serves major resorts like Vail, Breckenridge and Keystone.

In January 2012, for example, it took drivers an average of an hour and 50 minutes to travel west through that section during the peak of weekend traffic. The numbers fluctuate through the years for a variety of reasons, including weather, but by January 2018, it took just over two hours.

Traveling that stretch without traffic typically takes 90 minutes.

“It is a significant challenge, but that corridor is getting a lot better,” Ford said.

Still, words and numbers might not be enough to convince those who love to loathe I-70, and the department’s biggest challenge could be battling the perception that the interstate is getting exponentially worse.

“I watched it deteriorate so much … that I would have a really hard time believing that anything significant would have changed at this point,” Capsalis said.