CDOT looks for solutions to icy conditions in Snowmass Canyon
Commuters on Highway 82 might experience relief next winter from conditions that often make Snowmass Canyon an ice rink.The Colorado Department of Transportation is studying the drainage at one key banked curve to see if changes could prevent water from spilling over the road, then icing up, agency spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said.Numerous accidents occurred at the first set of curves in the downvalley-bound lanes. In one incident, a vehicle smashed the patrol car of a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy while he was investigating another crash. In another incident, a deputy and a Basalt cop had to hop a guardrail to avoid vehicles careening down the road pinball-style. They had also responded to a crash.Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis and Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said the problem repeatedly occurred at the curve at mile marker 30 of the downvalley lanes. Thompson estimated Sunday that ambulance crews from Basalt responded to nine accidents at that spot throughout the winter.One issue, Shanks said, is snow plowed off the road melts when temperatures rise during the day and sends water flowing from the high-side of the banked curve toward the low side. The canyon gets shade early in the afternoon, the water freezes, and accidents happen. Emergency response officials said speed was often a factor.Shanks said there is no engineering flaw. “It was designed appropriately,” she said.The agency is looking to see if drainage could be changed. For example, the shoulder on the high side of the curve might be altered to prevent the water from running across the road. Water could be channeled along the shoulder and under the road to drain at specific spots.Shanks said CDOT officials were uncertain if changes like that, if warranted, could happen by next winter.CDOT is also looking into placing weather sensors in the roadway and connecting them to electronic signs before the canyon entrance to alert motorists to freezing conditions.That would be more effective than standard signs that say “Icy conditions may exist,” Shanks said.”We’re going to look at some options that give drivers some real-time information about conditions on the road,” she said.Shanks stressed that CDOT took several steps to try to ease the problems. Those included installing additional message signs warning about conditions in the canyon; “extra attention” from the highway maintenance department; and work with the Colorado State Patrol to place a mobile speed radar unit at the downvalley entrance to the canyon to make drivers aware of their speed.Contact Scott Condon: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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